Shoppers willing to pay for products with “free of” claims on label, study

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th December 2013

Consumers crave more information about how their food is produced, and especially about the potentially harmful ingredients that are not included in the product, according to new research from Cornell University.

The laboratory study of 351 shoppers found that consumers were willing to pay a premium when a product label claimed a product was “free of” something, but only if the package included “negative” information on whatever the product was “free of”. For example, a food labelled “free” of a food dye will compel some consumers to buy that product. But even more people would buy the product if that same label also included information about the risks associated with ingesting such dyes.

“What did surprise us was the effect of supplementary information,” said Harry M Kaiser, a Cornell Professor whose field of study includes product labelling. “Even seemingly negative information was valued over just the label itself,” he said.

When provided more information about ingredients, consumers were more confident about their decisions and valued the product more, according to the researchers.

Published in November 2013 in the journal Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, the researchers said their study might interest food manufacturing companies, government policy makers and consumers alike.

Other authors of the journal article were Jura Liaukonyte, Nadia A. Streletskaya and Bradley J. Rickard, all of the Dyson School. The study was supported by internal funds from Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Shoppers willing to pay more for products with "free of" claims on label