Sick, salient and full of salt, sugar and fat: Understanding the impact of nutritional warnings on consumers’ associations through the salience bias

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  • Gastón Ares, Universidad de la Republica
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  • Lucía Antúnez, Universidad de la Republica
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  • Tobias Otterbring
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  • María Rosa Curutchet, Instituto Nacional de Alimentación
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  • Luis Galicia, Ministerio de Salud Pública
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  • Ximena Moratorio, Ministerio de Salud Pública
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  • Isabel Bove, UNICEF Uruguay

The aim of the present work was to explore the effect of the inclusion of nutritional warnings on consumer associations with labels of ultra-processed products. The study was conducted in Uruguay at two points in time, before and after the compulsory implementation of nutritional warnings. A total of 163 participants evaluated three labels of ultra-processed products using a word association task. In the first evaluation (T1), performed 9 months before the entry into force of nutritional warnings, labels were presented without warnings. Nine months later (15 days after the entry into force of the policy), participants evaluated the labels with warnings again (T2). Data were analyzed using content analysis. At T1, when labels were presented without nutritional warnings, responses to the word association task were related to a description of the product category, expected sensory characteristics of the products, brand names, liking and eating occasions. However, when the labels were presented with the warnings at T2, a significant increase in the frequency of mention of responses was observed within the categories Excessive content of sugar/fat/sodium, Not healthy, Diseases and negative health conditions, Rejection to consume, and Unexpected information. Results from the present work suggest that immediately after their implementation, nutritional warnings cause a salience bias that make excessive nutrient content and its negative health consequences more salient in consumers’ minds, especially in the case of products with a particular health-related connotation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103991
JournalFood Quality and Preference
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

    Research areas

  • Front-of-package, Heuristics, Nutrition information, Public policy, Word association

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