Eco-labels influence perception and taste of a product

A study by researchers from Sweden and the USA and published in PLOS ONE, has found that consumers are willing to pay more for a product if it has an eco-label. Sörqvist et al. also found that the eco-label leads to a more favourable perceptual experience of the product. 
The use of labels such as ‘fair-trade’ and ‘organically produced’ are increasing. The scientists note that although perception of a product is affected by sensory properties, it is also affected by cognitive factors such as expectations. It is known that adding a disgusting ingredient makes beer taste worse if people are told about it before tasting in comparison with uninformed consumer. Sörqvist et al. carried out three experiments to investigate the perception of “eco-friendly” coffee.
The first experiment investigated whether participants tend to prefer the taste of, and be willing to pay a higher price for eco-friendly coffee. Forty four participants (mean age 28 years old) reported using questionnaire, whether they preferred the taste of two coffees, which unknown to them were the same brand and had the exact same brew, but one was labelled eco-friendly and the other not eco-friendly. They were also asked questions on taste, how much they were willing to pay for the coffee, how often they purchased eco-friendly coffee, and whether they felt guilty when they brought a non-eco-friendly alternative.
The second experiment, involving 87 individuals (mean age 28 years old), was similar to the first, however this time they were not told which one of the two cups contained eco-friendly coffee until at the end of the experiment, where half were told they choose the eco-friendly and the other half the non-eco-friendly coffee.
Experiment 3 (40 participants, mean age 25 years old) had the same experimental design as 1, although this time the participants were randomly assigned to either report their response to an experimenter or report their response on a sheet by themselves, and slip the answers into a sealed box when they left. 
Sörqvist et al. report three main findings. Firstly an eco-label affects taste and willingness to pay, such that people are biased to prefer coffee that is labelled eco-friendly. Secondly the need to gain approval from others did not appear to underpin the eco-label effect and lastly people are willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly coffee and do so even when they prefer the taste of the alternative non-labelled product.


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