Consumer Generalization of Nutrient Content Claims in Advertising
The Journal of Marketing
Although considerable research exists on consumer processing of nutrition labeling and package claims, less is known about consumer interpretation of nutrient content claims in advertising. This is important because product advertising often provides a significant first step for consumers in learning new nutrition information. Yet, unlike package claims, Nutrition Facts Panels are often not available for consumers during the processing of such advertising claims. Therefore, the authors examine the following research questions: (1) Do consumers misinterpret (i. e., overgeneralize) common nutrient content claims in advertising? If so, under what conditions does this occur? and (2) Can various types of disclosure statements remedy this problem? To address these questions, the authors interview a total of 365 primary food shoppers in three geographically dispersed malls in the United States in a between-subjects experiment. Misleading generalizations, beyond those of control ad claims, are found for general and specific nutrient content claims. Ad disclosure type, ad claim type, and nutrition knowledge all separately influence nutrient content and disease risk measures. Evaluative disclosures reduce misleading generalizations to a greater extent than do absolute or relative disclosures. The authors offer implications for public policy and food marketers.