This research examines consumers’ processing of Facts-up-front food labels as implemented by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA). Facts-up-front labels include both positive (virtues) and negative (vices) nutritional icons. The processing and relative efficacy of Facts-up-front labels are compared to the original FDA proposal of front-of-pack labels which only included vices. The results suggest heuristic processing of these labels, whereby consumers consider the nutritional icons on the front-of-pack labels similar to affective stimuli. The addition of virtues alongside vices on the label has a compensatory effect, i.e., the food item is evaluated as healthier when there are both virtues and vices on the label compared to when there are only vices. Such heuristic processing of Facts-up-front labels that allows nutritional virtues to compensate for nutritional vices has the potential for consumers evaluating harmful foods as relatively “healthy” thus compromising consumer well-being. These findings illustrate the importance of empirically testing changes to nutritional labels before large scale implementation. Since consumers process front-of-pack labels heuristically and not cognitively, it is not surprising that nutritional literacy does not moderate the effects of label design on healthiness evaluations. Furthermore, the order of the negative and positive information on Facts-up-front labels also has no effect.
Zlatevska, N., Chowdhury, R., Tam, L., & Holden, S. (2019). Facts-up-front: should food companies follow the FDA or industry label format? The effects of combining virtue and vice information on consumer evaluations. Marketing Letters, 30(3-4), 321-334. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11002-019-09504-9