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A Natural Experiment: Using Immersive Technologies to Study the Impact of "All-Natural" Labeling on Perceived Food Quality, Nutritional Content, and Liking

Published Date February 08, 2017
Research Topic
Research Type
Authors Neal Hooker

Abstract

The "all-natural" label is used extensively in the United States. At many point-of-purchase locations, employed servers provide food samples and call out specific label information to influence consumers' purchase decisions. Despite these ubiquitous practices, it is unclear what information is conveyed to consumers by the all-natural label or how it impacts judgments of perceived food quality, nutritional content, and acceptance. We used a novel approach incorporating immersive technology to simulate a virtual in-store sampling scenario where consumers were asked by a server to evaluate identical products with only one being labeled all-natural. Another condition evaluated the impact of the in-store server additionally emphasizing the all-natural status of one sample. Results indicated the all-natural label significantly improved consumer's perception of product quality and nutritional content, but not liking or willingness to pay, when compared to the regular sample. With the simple emphasis of the all-natural claim by the in-store server, these differences in quality and nutritional content became even more pronounced, and willingness to pay increased significantly by an average of 8%. These results indicate that in a virtual setting consistent with making food purchases, an all-natural front-of-pack label improves consumer perceptions of product quality and nutritional content. In addition, information conveyed to consumers by employed servers has a further, substantial impact on these variables suggesting that consumers are highly susceptible to social influence at the point of purchase.

Liu, Rebecca, Neal H. Hooker, Efthimios Parasidis, and Christopher T. Simons. 2017. Using Immersive Technologies to Study the Impact of “All Natural” Labeling on Perceived Food Quality, Nutritional Content and Liking. Journal of Food Science. 82(3): 825833