Organic food labelling can be as genuine as a beef one

New research suggests that just slapping an organic label on regular foods will con many shoppers into paying as much as 23% more for the same item because they think that they are purchasing an item that is tastier and healthier for them. This phenomenon is often referred to as the ‘health halo effect’ and can happen when a consumer sees a food labelled as organic that makes them feel better about what they are about to eat.

Researchers took a closer look at what an organic label will do when placed on items and found that they often will also alter perceptions of calories, taste, and value. In order to gather the results they asked participants to eat identical food items out of which one sample had an organic label placed on it.

115 people were included in the survey and were asked to compare two cookies, two yoghurts, and two potato chips. One was labelled regular and one was labelled organic. They were then asked to rate the calorie content and taste of each item and what they thought would be a fair price to pay for the item.

The researchers found that even though in reality the foods were exactly the same, the organic label changed peoples’ perceptions and most felt that they would have fewer calories. They also admitted that they would pay much more for the same items.

The study explained that the health halo effect does affect people when they see the organic label and that people are inclined to believe any organic item is lower in fat than the alternative choice. It also changed the way that people tasted food as they overall felt that the organic foods had much more flavour to them than the regular alternatives.