Buying healthy food stresses consumers

Consumer doubt on whether purchased products are healthy causes stress. This is the result of a new survey from CBS. The new knowledge can be used for development of information on health and food and the way they are marketed


Consumers chasing healthy food become stressed if they have doubts whether a food actually is healthy. Most people know that cola is unhealthy and an apple is healthy, But other foods are more complex to find out, which means that consumers doubt whether they have made a healthy choice or not. Research from Copenhagen Business School shows that this may cause stress or a mental imbalance.

Thyra Uth Thomsen, Suzanne C. Beckmann and Torben Hansen, associate professor and professors respectively from the Department of Marketing have initiated this survey. This type of stress is called ’post-purchase health-related dissonance’.

- It is the committed consumers who become stressed. They want to be healthy and they become unsure whether their purchase leads to the healthy lifestyle that they are aiming for, says Torben Hansen. He points towards TV-dinners and salad dressing as being stress-inducing food.

Stress causes the consumers to cheat
Apart from discomfort and dissatisfaction, the consequence of post-purchase health-related dissonance is that the consumer chooses another product the next time.

- Committed consumers, who want to be healthy, search for information in order to buy healthy food. When they experience post-purchase health-related dissonance, they will choose another product the next time. The more complex the choice, the more stressful it seems. If they were convinced that they had made the correct healthy choice, they would not feel discomfort, says Torben Hansen.

Post-purchase health-related dissonance is vital to marketing
Marketing people may benefit from knowledge about how consumers avoid post-purchase health-related dissonance, as they may be returning consumers.

- Too much product information may cause confusion and worsen the experience of complexity. If the manufacturer wants to create certainty of the healthiness of the product, the consumer must be able to understand and believe the information provided. Among others, the Danish food processing industry supports an EU-initiated possibility of making health claims for instance stating that a certain product is good for your heart - just as the Americans do. However, the Danish Consumer Council will probably argue that the market will become less clear. Another player in this field is the Danish Institute for Informative Labelling. They want to equip the consumers to read a consumer informative label, says Torben Hansen.

Houses and cars also create discomfort
Torben Hansen demonstrates several examples on stress caused by purchases that shape the identity of the consumer:

- Even if you have just bought a house, you keep looking for other houses. You want to be confirmed in making the right choice. If you have bought a car, you will present it to friends and family just to know that you have made a bargain. If you are never reassured that your purchase is correct, you are also likely to have a post-purchase health-related dissonance, says Torben Hansen.

The survey has been carried out as a questionnaire study with 504 respondents. The survey examines the significance of extra information retrieval in connection with purchase of food to the consumer's experience of post-purchase heath-related dissonance. The survey is not representative. The statistical data analysis has been carried out as a structural equation model. The research article is called “Antecedents and Consequences of Consumer's Response to Health Information Complexity” and was published in the Journal of Food Products Marketing in January this year.

Contact: Torben Hansen, Professor, e-mail, tel.:+45 3815 2177

The page was last edited by: Communications // 03/02/2018