Take a box of cereal and you'll see a few common phrases like "healthy" or "completely natural". These claims are not indicative of actual health benefits – but that does not prevent people from buying them, according to a new study published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing .
It is hard to believe that there are so many types of cereals, but researchers have analyzed more than 600 boxes of staple foods in four separate studies. Their goal was to determine whether the marketing claim of a product, such as "no additives" or "high in vitamins," was supported by actual health benefits, such as weight loss.
It turned out that these traits have no relation to the nutritional quality of a cereal. However, this does not prevent shoppers from buying grain that the authors of the study believe is "healthier". In particular, people choose products that claim to be made with healthy ingredients, such as whole grains, as opposed to products that claim to remove something potentially "bad", such as gluten.
"We found that consumers are more positive about allegations based on the presence of something good than assertions about the absence of something bad," said study chair Pierre Chandon Professor of Marketing, Innovation and creativity at INSEAD in France, said in a statement.
Chandon's team noted that marketing claims also influence the way people think about the taste of food.
Consumers believe that foods labeled as "homemade" or "without preservatives" are more delicious. It is believed that cereals labeled as "low in fat", "low in sugar" or "light" help to lose weight.
So how can you be a smarter buyer? Bypass the front-of-the-box and read the nutritional label instead. Use these tips to learn how to read food labels to see how much sugar, protein, fiber, and fat should be in a nutritious product.