Consumer Food Preferences: Three Essays On Labeling, Anti-Obesity Policies And Social Presence
This dissertation is comprised of three independent research essays focused around consumer food preferences in the U.S. The first essay, entitled "Taxes, Subsidies, and Advertising Efficacy in Changing Eating Behavior: An Experimental Study", examines whether unhealthy foods taxes, healthy foods subsidies, anti-obesity advertising, and healthy foods advertising have an impact on changing consumers' choices of lunch items and the nutrient content of their choices for a selected meal. The analysis relies on a lab experiment with 258 adult non-student participants. A difference-in-difference regression model was used to determine the efficacy of the various policy treatments. The results indicate that the unhealthy foods tax, healthy foods advertising, and unhealthy foods tax combined with anti-obesity advertising significantly reduced the content of some nutrients of concern, such as calories, calories from fat, carbohydrates, and cholesterol in meal selections. The essay is concluded with a discussion of the policy implications of these findings and venues for future research. The second essay, "Noisy Information Signals and Credence Attribute Labeling", examines consumers' reaction to information about various food ingredients. This research paper uses a model based on the theoretical framework of Johnson and Myatt (2006) to measure the impact of "Contains" food labels with and without additional negative information about the labeled ingredients. Credence attribute labeling is modeled as a noisy information signal. For the most concerned consumers, a "Contains" label absent additional information serves as a noisy warning signal and increases uncertainty, leading them to overestimate the riskiness of consuming the labeled product. The provision of additional (even negative) information reduces the noise in the information signal, thereby mitigating the large negative signaling effect of the label. Finally, the third essay moves away from examining the impact of information, and considers the effect of social effects on consumer food choices. The "Social Presence and Shopping Behavior: Evidence from Video Data" paper uses a unique combined dataset of video surveillance and sales data from a small boutique wine store to study the effect of social presence on shopping behavior. By exploiting quasiexperimental exogenous variation of other shoppers coming in or leaving the store, the effect of the change in the level of social presence on customers' shopping behavior is estimated. In particular, the results indicate that people are significantly more likely to buy when the level of social presence is lower, with some customers increasing their total spending, and others buying cheaper wines. The essay concludes with a discussion on the importance of social characteristics of the environment in the consumer decision-making process.
consumer food preferences; experimental economics; behavioral economics
Liaukonyte,Jurate; Wansink,Brian C.
Ph.D. of Agricultural Economics
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis