The calorie dilemma: Leaner and larger, or tastier yet smaller meals? Calorie consumption and willingness to trade food quantity for food taste in fast food products.

Amir Heiman, Oded Lowengart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous research has shown that not only do most consumers not change their food choices when exposed to calorie information; while some do reduce their calorie consumption, others actually increase it by shifting to foods with higher calorie content. Overestimation of calorie content of food items is the main explanation for this counterintuitive behavior (choosing higher-calorie items). This paper aims to provide a differing explanation for this counterintuitive behavior that is based on the idea that there is a correlation between perceptions of a product's attributes and its calorie density. Specifically, higher calorie density is associated with better taste, and there is greater heterogeneity in changes in eating behavior after calorie posting (consumers' willingness to trade their physical appeal for taste) than we expected to observe. Consumers who assign high importance to taste and low importance to their physical attractiveness, or like the full body look have a higher likelihood of shifting to the highest-calorie main course than do consumers who assign high importance to their physical appearance or aim at being slim. The former group might shift their post-information choices to the higher calorie content main course, yet may reduce the number of side orders, resulting in fewer calories overall. Consumers who are more concerned about calorie consumption may choose to consume more dishes, yet each with fewer calories. Our empirical study, which is based on market experimental surveys on perceptions and choices of fast food products, supports this assertion. Importance of physical attractiveness and fashion; income; and age characterize the two types of consumers - calorie lovers versus calorie avoiders - while gender affects response to calorie information only.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-316
JournalMarketing, Zeitschrift fur Forschung und Praxis
Volume33
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2011

Keywords

  • calorie
  • choice process
  • fast food
  • gender
  • information
  • lifestyle
  • overweight

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