You taste what you see: Organic labels favorably bias taste perceptions

Jenny Wan-chen Lee, Mitsuru Shimizu and Brian Wansink

Applied Economics & Management, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Does simply believing that a food is organic improve how enjoyable it tastes or increase how much people are willing to pay? Extending on our prior study, this experiment employs a within-subject design that involves three types of foods, broadens participant demographics, and examines actual taste evaluations. Participants (n = 144, mean age = 34.9) were presented with a pair of cookies, chips, and yogurt cups, one labeled ‘organic,’ the other not labeled ‘organic,’ (although all foods were in fact organically produced) and were asked to taste and evaluate each pair of foods using sensory, nutrition, and value-related measures.

As expected, foods labeled organic were estimated to be significantly lower in calories and evoked a higher willingness to pay than foods without the organic label, across all three items (ps<.001). Foods with the organic label were also reported to taste lower in fat (ps<.001) and contain more fiber (ps<.02). Further, organically-labeled chips and cookies were considered to be more nutritious than their non-organic counterparts (ps<.001). These findings suggest that the presence of an organic label can stimulate positive taste perception ratings across both healthy (yogurt) and less healthy foods (chips, cookies) and that the influence of such labels can prevail even over a food’s actual nutritional value. Source