Labelling the same foods as organic makes consumers evaluate them differently

Note: analysis based on my Behavioral Orchestration and Analysis framework explained here.


Wan-chen Jenny Lee, Mitsuru Shimizu, Kevin M. Kniffin, Brian Wansink, You taste what you see: Do organic labels bias taste perceptions?, Food Quality and Preference, Volume 29, Issue 1, July 2013, Pages 33-39, ISSN 0950-3293,


  • Study to see of labelling a food as organic changed consumer’s perception of taste and health attributes.

Changes implemented

Choice Architecture

Contextual persuasion and copy elements
  • Labelling the same food as organic or conventional, i.e. using the halo effect to influence as consumers perceive food based only on its organic property.


  • Participants estimated the organic labelled foods as healthier and tasting less fatty/salted


Unsurprising results and not really a bias in my opinion, as many organic products taste the same as conventional ones and their main health benefits (like less pesticide residues) are not detectable through taste only. So seems logical and rational and not really fitting the definition of the halo effect for me.

Full Abstract:

Does simply believing that a processed food is organic improve how enjoyable it tastes, influence caloric estimations, or increase how much people are willing to pay for the item? In the present study, 115 participants recruited from a local shopping mall were asked to taste and evaluate three paired food samples (i.e., cookies, potato chips, and yogurt). Each of those food samples was labeled, specifying one of the items in the pair as ‘organic’ and the other label specifying its counterpart as ‘regular’, although they were identical and organically produced. Results found that participants estimated those foods with organic labels to be lower in calories than those without the organic label. Furthermore, foods with the organic label elicited a higher willingness-to-pay and yielded better nutritional evaluations (e.g., tastes lower in fat, higher in fiber) than foods without the organic label. Finally, results found that the effects of the organic label on caloric estimations were less pronounced among people who typically read nutritional labels, who often buy organic foods, and who often engage in pro-environmental activities. This underscores the idea that the health halo effect is primarily driven by automatic processing based on heuristics. Understanding how consumers use nutritional information on product labels has important implications for both public policy as well as processed food manufacturers who use such claims as tools to market their products.