Color of nutrition labels may suggest healthfulness

March 18, 2013

A study published in Health Communication shows that green calorie labels increase the perceived healthfulness of foods. The food industry has recently implemented numerous front-of-package nutrition labels to readily convey key aspects a food product’s nutritional profile to consumers (e.g., calories and fat content). Although seemingly well-intentioned, such labels might lead consumers to perceive relatively poor nutrition foods in a healthier light.

For the study, about 93 students were shown an image of a candy bar bearing either a red or a green calorie label. The students were asked whether the candy bar, compared to others, contains more or fewer calories and how healthy it is. The participants perceived a candy bar as healthier when it bore a green rather than a red calorie label, despite the fact that the labels conveyed the same calorie content. The experiment was repeated with online participants using a green calorie label versus a white label and once again the participants perceived the green-labeled candy bar as healthier.

The researchers concluded that green labels increase perceived healthfulness, especially among consumers who place high importance on healthy eating.