Ethically-Sourced Junk Food Still Junk Food

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Alice Robb flags a new paper in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing:

A team of researchers led by John Pedoza, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Kentucky, found that we assume that food made by a socially conscious company is also healthy.

Pedoza and colleagues asked 144 students to evaluate a new brand of granola bar after reading a fictitious newspaper article about the company behind the product. Half the participants read an article describing a company that had won awards for its corporate social responsibility; the other half read about a company whose charitable activities were more modest. (This company had only recently begun donating to a charity.) The newspaper articles also portrayed the companies as having either selfish or altruistic motives for their charitable activities: “selfish” managers admitted that they were hoping their philanthropy would enhance their company’s reputation; “altruistic” managers were motivated primarily by a desire to help the community.

After reading the articles, the students were shown a fact sheet about the granola bars, with details on proposed flavors, launch date, and suggested price, but nothing on nutrition. Then they had to indicateon a scale of 1 to 7how much they agreed with statements like, “I expect this product will contain few preservatives,” “I expect this product will be made with natural ingredients,” and “I expect this product will be very healthy.” They also ranked their expectations of its “deliciousness” on a 7-point scale.

As Pedoza expected, students assumed that the more socially responsible companies were also producing a healthier snack food: The average composite score of the granola bar produced by these companies was 4.58, compared to 3.9 for the less socially responsible brand.

(Photo by David Berkowitz)