Today, consumers have various concerns when choosing food and these considerations can often be overwhelming; too much fat, too much sugar, not convenient, too expensive. Furthermore, in a recent study, it was found that these concerns overlap as shoppers have an intuition when making healthy choices: healthy = expensive. This intuition is based on so-called lay beliefs – i.e. mental short-cuts consumers use to simplify the world around them.
Via several experiments the authors showed:
- Consumers consider snacks with a health grade of A- (e.g. Granola bars, breakfast crackers) as more expensive than a similar snack with a health grade of C. This confirms the healthy = expensive perception.
- The effect works in both directions. Not only do consumers see a product which is objectively healthier as more expensive, they infer a more expensive product as healthier.
- Consumers rely more heavily on the healthy = expensive intuition when information on price or ingredients is ambiguous or in situations in which they encounter new or less meaningful health claims (e.g. “natural”).
Brand manufacturers should be aware that consumers tend to overgeneralize the healthy = expensive intuition and should counterbalance this bias via communication and product packaging (e.g., “Save money while getting healthier”).