It is a requirement that health claims be scientifically founded. However, their phrasing is criticised for being unappealing and cumbersome to communicate to consumers. Instead, it has been found that consumers respond favourably to non-scientifically phrased ‘soft’ health information. We aimed to explore to what extent health claims presented in the context of (thus framed) scientific phrasing of health information impacts health inferences and attitudes towards a product when compared to ‘soft’ health-related information framing. Different versions of mock resveratrol food supplement descriptions were presented in a between subjects experimental design conducted in the US and Denmark. Furthermore, respondents were shown mock-up media reports contradicting the earlier information and asked to repeat their assessment of health inferences and their attitude. This was done to assess how robust consumers’ health inferences and attitudes are in an environment of contradictory information. Results show that the soft information positively influences health inferences and attitudes in Denmark, while in the US, scientific information positively influences health inferences but not attitudes. Faced with contradictory information, US consumers reduce their favourable attitude towards the product to a lesser extent in the presence of scientific information. The findings underline the crucial role of the informational context as well as the country background for consumer perception of health claims. Non-scientific information can be potentially more powerful in communication, but a product assessment based on scientific information might be more robust to the detrimental impact of contradictory information.
Food Quality and Preference, 2015, Vol 42, p. 90-99
Information; Health claim; Food supplement; Resveratrol; Attitude; Inference