Effect of Nutrition Information disclosure on a restaurant menu and consumer food choice
In order to better inform Canadians about the high level of calories, fat and sodium in most restaurants, policy makers and health advocates have suggested that nutritional information be added on the menu. But, before consumers can read this information there are other cues that bias calorie perceptions. These cues create certain expectations about the healthfulness of the menu items. For example, restaurants create “health halos” in which consumers are led to believe that their options are healthy when in reality they may not be (Wansink & Chandon, 2006). Do consumers notice this incongruence? Would their choices differ when nutritional values differed from expectations? The main objective of this research was to examine if calories, fat and sodium on a restaurant menu influence consumers to make healthier food choices. The moderating role of expectations about a restaurant’s food drawn from the expectation-disconfirmation paradigm was also examined to determine if consumer food choice differs when nutrition information is incongruent to expectations. Lastly, consumers’ sensitivity to price was studied when calories, fat and sodium were present. Undergraduate students (n=240) from the University of Guelph in a between and within-subjects design responded to three surveys. Discrete choice experiments were used with different levels of calories, fat and sodium to study the effect of these attributes on menu item choice. Findings indicate that nutrition information does lead to healthier choices when expectations are positively disconfirmed but not when they are negatively disconfirmed and when objective information is provided. Further, participants’ reported calories and fat to be more important than sodium. From a health, nutrition and policy maker’s standpoint, this finding is indicative of the fact that consumers do use calories, fat and sodium information on a menu, albeit, selectively.