The health-taste trade-off in consumer decision making for functional snacks: An experimental approach


The purpose of this paper is twofold; first, to evaluate the claim that consumers are willing to compromise on taste in order to obtain the potential health benefits from functional snacks; and second, to investigate the effect of expectations for the snacks, blind tasting and product information on hedonic judgments and willingness to pay (WTP). A sample of 160 subjects was recruited to participate in a lab experiment that combined hedonic evaluations and a series of non-hypothetical second-price Vickrey auctions, under blind or informed tasting conditions. Participants were also asked to complete a questionnaire about consumer preferences, purchasing habits and demographics. Results indicate that tasting and information have economically and statistically significant effects on overall food assessment with respect to prior product expectations. Provision of information regarding functional food components shortly before consumption makes consumers less strict on their taste evaluation and increases their WTP. This indicates that consumers are willing to partly sacrifice the pleasure of taste in order to improve the healthfulness of their diet. When information is provided after taste, it only exerts influence with respect to the carob-based snack. Furthermore, blind tasting has a negative effect on liking, irrespective of the product being evaluated. Finally, the econometric results reveal that older respondents tend to bid higher for functional snacks. This study contributes to the existing literature not only on the basis of the novelty of results but also on the methodological front, since it showcases the combined use of hedonic tests and auctions with real monetary incentives as a state of the art technique on eliciting consumers’ overall assessment for functional snacks. It also highlights important elements in the toolkit that marketers can use to influence products’ perceived health benefits, and thus consumption choices.

British Food Journal
Andreas C. Drichoutis
Andreas C. Drichoutis
Associate Professor of Consumer Behavior

My research interests are focused on, but not limited to, the economics of nutrition/obesity, contingent valuation and experimental auctions methods to elicit consumers’ valuations, choice under risk, inter-temporal decision making and applied demand analysis. Most of my research applies experimental economics methods to answer questions relevant for agricultural economists and decision scientists.