Consumer Demand for Redundant Food Labels
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Previous studies, as well as market sales data, show some consumers are willing to pay a premium for redundant or superfluous food labels that carry no additional information for the informed consumer. Some advocacy groups have argued that the use of such redundant labels is misleading or unethical. To determine whether premiums for redundant labels stem from misunderstanding or other factors, this study seeks to determine whether greater knowledge of the claims - in the form of expertise in food production and scientific literacy - decreases willingness to pay for redundant labels. We also explore whether de-biasing information influences consumers’ valuations of redundant labels. An online survey of 1,122 U.S. consumers elicits willingness-to-pay premiums for three redundantly labeled products: non-GMO sea salt, gluten-free orange juice, and no-hormone-added chicken breast. Respondents with farm experience report lower premiums for non-GMO salt and no-hormone-added chicken. Those with higher scientific literacy state lower premiums for gluten-free orange juice. However, provided information about the redundancy of the claims, less than half of respondents who were initially willing to pay extra for the label are convinced otherwise. Over 30% of respondents counter-intuitively increase their premiums, behavior that is associated with less a priori scientific knowledge. The likelihood of “overpricing” redundant labels is associated with willingness-to-pay premiums for organic food, suggesting at least some of the premium for organic is a result of misinformation.