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Nutrition information vs. consumer behavior Essay


Various researches that have been carried out have shown that the presence of nutritional information has direct influence on food consumption choice. For instance the public awareness campaigns about nutritional disease have greatly impacted the consumer behavior. These campaigns are meant to enable the consumers to make the best choice of food and avoid such nutritional diseases as obesity.

This is one of the factors that have caused the availability of nutritional information to increase in current world. According to United States Department of Agriculture (2005), the increasing cases of away-from-home food consumption have also increased the need for nutritional information in those food outlets and restaurants.

In the United States, for instance, most of the states and localities claim that the fast food chain restaurants should provide the relevant nutritional information on all the foods they serve (Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, 1990). They claim that there should be a law requiring such information to be provided in the menus that are used by these restaurants.

According to California Menu Labeling Bill (SB 1420) (2008), California took the lead in requiring fast food chain restaurants with over twenty outlets to include in their menus the information regarding calorie counts in their foods. Other state have gone further and requires more information regarding fat, carbohydrates, sodium and other such contents to be displayed in the restaurant menus.

This was meant to enable the consumer to make informed choices about the kind of food they take (EU Food and Drink Confederation [CIAA], 2009). All this nutritional information has been noted to have significant influence on consumer food choice. Consumers use information to make choice on the right priorities, to allocate resource and to monitor progress.

Knowledge encourages good decision making and responsible choices (Nayga & Roldolfo, 2000). Policies made by the government influence the consumer decision. These decisions are sometimes shaped by political and economic goals as well as social objectives (Sanders, 1993, Para 32).

Part I of this paper is a literature review on the role of nutrition information in influencing consumer choice. At the end of the review an aim, set of objectives and a research question for a research project will be highlighted.

Part II is an outline of the research. It will include research methodology, respondents of the research, how to access the respondents, difficulties likely to be encountered and possible ways of solving those difficulties.

Role of nutrition information in influencing consumer choice

Of much importance in the consumer choice is Guideline Daily Amounts basically referred to as GDAs which enable the consumers to make informed choices on the kind of foods they take. GDA provide nutritional fact labels that make it easier for consumers to make sense of nutritional information that they are provided with in the restaurants.

According to Li, Miniard, and Barone (2000), the effect of nutritional information on consumer choice depends on the nutritional knowledge that the consumers have. The use of GDAs and other front-of-pack labeling formats enable the consumers to gain relevant knowledge about the kind of food they take.

Sanders (1993, Para 34) mentioned that consumer’s choice is dependent on nutritional policies. Nutritional policies are guidelines that the government adopts and executes as part of the national strategies. The main objective of these policies is to improve the nutrition. Therefore the government partners with the academic institutions and the food industry to provide information to the consumers.

According to Hassan, Shiu and Michaelidou (2010, pp2), there are three factors that influence consumer choices in consumption. They are temptation, self control and conflict. Temptation is a conflicting desire to satisfy an immediate craving. Most often one is tempted to take a food product that is enjoyable due to its taste.

The ability to withstand temptation varies from one individual to another. Individuals understanding about the food affect their strength in the ability to make a choice. The temptation is usually a contradiction between gratifying a short term objective and a long term objective of nutrition. In most cases people satisfy the short term objective. As a result their desires when satisfied meet the immediate need to satisfy the craving, hence abandon the long term objective of good health.

Conflict is another factor that influences individual’s choice of consumption. Conflict in the case of food choice, as noted by Luomala, Laaksonen, and Leipamaa (2004), marks the extent of trade-off between the values of health exhibited by the consumer and the extravagance that makes them unable to value health. The conflict is between values in healthy eating and involvement in unhealthy eating.

Bettman et al. (1993) claims that the solution to the choice of conflict requires strategies and relevant information that gives the consumers the wisdom to make trade-off decision that are optimal and fulfilling.

The consumer is actively involved in an analysis of the nutritional knowledge to make a choice. The value of satisfaction acquired in unhealthy consumption is compared with the cost involved curing illnesses. The cost of treating illness tends to cause individuals refrain from poor eating habits.

Finally, self control is another factor that affects consumer choices. Self control is the capability to overcome temptations. Information on nutrition is important in guiding an individual’s ability to resist a strong desire. Self control lead individuals to make the right choices on their consumption.

Another role of nutrition information is that buyers avoid acquiring unhealthy food product. Drichoutis, Lazaridis & Nayga (2006, pp 2) argue that consumers believe that some products contain unhealthy nutrients. These nutrients are considered unhealthy because they are in large amounts and might lead to undesirable body weight gain or might lead to health conditions such as obesity. The unhealthy nutrients could also be harmful to the health of human beings because they can cause illnesses if consumed for a long term.

Nutritional information leads to conception of perception and valuation of a product to consumers. An individual usually take time to study different product on their own and makes a personal judgment.The judgment is based on the best balance of nutrition and the price. Depending on an individual’s want, they may buy specific products which claim to have specific health benefit.

For instance product that is rich in iron might be bought favorably by women with iron deficiency. Other products claim that if the consumer takes it, they will have reduced risk to suffer from a certain diseases (Drichoutis, Lazaridis & Nayga 2006 pp 2).

The food industry is responsible for giving information about their products. Clear and reliable information must be given to consumers as Verduin, Agarwal and Waltman suggest (2005, Para 7). In addition the food industry can produce goods with the required nutritional values, include healthy ingredients and adhere to the right proportions of nutrition (Mhurchu & Delvina, 2007).

In so doing the food industry will create a balance between nutritional value and the psychological needs and cultural values of the consumer (Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2009). Furthermore, the food industry should be committed to enable the consumer live his lifestyle by providing a variety of food product. Therefore the food industry will affect individual’s choice on nutrition.

According Cowburn & Stockley (2005), despite giving information on health benefits and risks involved in food product some people do not change their eating habits to healthier consumption. Drichoutis, Lazaridis & Nayga (2006, pp 3) states that information can change the dietary pattern.

Consequently dietary quantity and quality changes remarkably among those who consider the information labels on consumable product. However, some of those who do not pay attention to the nutrition labels end up with health conditions such as obesity.

Information on nutrition is the way to cure obesity. In their research Verduin, Agarwal & Waltman (2005, Para 6) discovered that individual choice of food and lifestyle could bring a solution to obesity. Information will cause an individual with the knowledge about nutritional value know a variety of alternatives to choose from.

Although individuals with information could make a choice they are greatly influenced by taste, quality, accessibility, traditions, cost and psychological pressure. All these are weighed against information given on quantities of calories, fats and carbohydrates on food products.

Obesity is increasingly becoming a health concern. For instance Colins (2007) statistics show that 40million people in the United States of America suffer from obesity. Obesity cuts across all ages with a majority with over twenty five years. Furthermore, the number of children with obesity is increasing. Associated with obesity is the health conditions related to obesity. Such illnesses include diabetes.

Research objectives

General objective this research generally seeks to explore into the role of nutrition information in influencing consumer choice specific objectives to achieve the general objective, the research specifically seeks to achieve the following objectives

  1. The effect of information on the causes of diabetes on consumer choice
  2. Beneficial effect on the influence of self-control on consumption choice
  3. The effect of conflicting values of health on consumer choice
  4. The effects of nutritional policies on consumer choice
  5. The effects of temptations on consumer choice

Research questions

The research will be guided by the following research questions

  1. What is the effect of information on the causes of diabetes on consumer behavior?
  2. What role does conflicting values on health play in influencing consumer behavior?
  3. How does nutrition policy affect consumer choice?
  4. To what extent dies temptations affect consumer choice?
  5. What are the effects of self control on consumer behavior?

Research methodology

The information will be gathered using questionnaire method where the respondents will be given a questionnaire to fill in. This is because the most valid information about the effect of information on consumer choice could be obtained from the consumers themselves. They are the ones that experience the effect. The respondents chosen are students in higher education and the products chosen are fast foods.

Questionnaires are well known and recognizable. Most people have seen and filled a questionnaire before. The respondents are likely to answer the questionnaire freely without the influence from the interviewer. Biases that come as a result of influence from a face to face interview will be eliminated as well as wrong interpretations by the interviewers in recording.

The second reason for using a questionnaire is that the results are friendly to analyze. Data collected can be easily tabulated and entered into a computer for analysis (Colins, 2007). Computer software can analyze the data in just a click of a mouse.

In addition, the questionnaire will not disrupt the normal schedule of the day. They will fill the questionnaire during their own free time. This is an advantage because they will write questionnaires without interfering with their other activities.

Potential respondents and how to access them

The students in higher education are believed to be the best subjects for this research. They are identified as the main consumers of fast foods. They work on tight schedules and therefore they find fast foods as the most convenient meal for them. They also have first hand experience with the effect of nutritional information on consumer behavior.

These respondents will be visited during their free sessions like lunch time and will be given questionnaires to fill in. mail questionnaires will also be used to students that are well known by the researcher and whose email address are known. This will give them a chance to fill in the questionnaire at their convenience.

Difficulties in carrying out the research and their solutions

Difficulties that are anticipated to happen include failure to respond. Some respondent might become too busy and forget to answer the questionnaire. Others may fail to mail it back. At times the mailed questionnaires may fail to reach the destination of the respondent.

This can be due to entering incorrect address. This problem can be solved if the address is clearly written and the mail is sent. Another way is to send as many questionnaires as possible to the possible respondents. In cases where response will unavailable the extra questionnaires send will come in handy.

Another difficulty likely to occur is that incase the respondent misinterprets the question the answer is likely to be wrong. To prevent instances of misinterpretation, the question must be clearly written and one question should be asked at a time. Open ended questions in a questionnaire may bring difficulties in the interpretation of data.

The respondents may give too much information which is irrelevant. The questionnaire can be designed in such a way that there is limited space for response. As a result the respondent will only write the important information. Another challenge is that the respondents may not be willing to respond.

The questionnaire should therefore have an introductory letter to explain the purpose of research. The questionnaire can also give conduct on the researcher so that they can be able to conduct the researcher. Another motivation to the respondents is that the researcher should state how he intends to make known his research findings.


The study will help to determine whether there is any influence on consumer choices based on nutrition information. The temptations, conflict and self control will be analyzed as well to determine their role in influencing consumer choice. For consumer to make informed decisions about the kind of food that they need to take, they need information about the nutritional content of that food.

This will enable them to avoid some foods that are likely to cause them health problems. Restaurants operators should take it up on themselves to provide the relevant information about the nutritional content of the food they offer.

Reference List

Bettman, J.R., Johnson, E. J., Luce, M.F., & Payne J.W., 1993. Correlation, Conflict and Choice. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 19 (4): 931-951.

., 2008. Web.

., 2009. Web.

Colins, A., 2007. Obesity Statistics. Web.

Cowburn, G & Stockley, L., 2005. Consumer Understanding and Use of Nutrition Labeling: A Systematic Review. Public Health Nutrition, 8: 21-28.

Drichoutis, A.C., Lazaridis, P. & Nayga, R.M., 2006. Consumers’ Use of Nutritional Labels: A Review of Research Studies and Issues. Web.

EU Food and Drink Confederation [CIAA]. 2009. Web.

Hassan,L., Shiu,E.M. & Michaelidou, N., 2010. The influence of Information on Choice: the roles of Temptation, Conflict and Self- control. Journal of Consumer Affairs.

Li, F., Miniard, P. W, & Barone, M. J., 2000. The Facilitating Influence of Consumer Knowledge on the Effectiveness of Daily Value Reference Information. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 28 (3): 425-436.

Luomala, H.T., Laaksonen, P. & Leipamaa, H., 2004. How Do Consumers Solve Value Conflicts in Food Choices? An Empirical Description and Points for Theory-Building. In Advances in Consumer Research, edited by Barbara E. Kahn and Mary F. Luce (564-570). Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.

Mhurchu, C.N. & Delvina G., 2007. Nutrition Labels and Claims in New Zealand and Australia: A Review of Use and Understanding. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 31: 105-112.

Nayga, Jr., Roldolfo M., 2000. Nutrition Knowledge, Gender, and Food Label Use. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 34 (June): 97-112.

Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. 1990. Public Law 101-535, 104 Stat. 2355.

Sanders,D., 1993. How Nutrition Improves – Nutrition Policy Discussion Paper No.15

Political Economy, Institutional Capacity and Nutrition Policy Chapter 6. Web.

United States Department of Agriculture., 2005. Nutrition Labeling in the Food-Away-From-Home Sector: An Economic Assessment. Economic Research Report, No. (ERR-4), 28 pp, April 2005.

Verduin, P., Agarwal, S. & Waltman, S., 2005. Solutions to obesity: Perspective from the food industry. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 82, No. 1, July 2005.

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