Identifying and Addressing the “Health Halo” Surrounding Plant-Based Meat Alternatives in Limited-Information Environments

Gabriel E. Gonzales, Christopher Berry, Matthew D. Meng, R. Bret Leary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

In limited-information environments like restaurants, consumers are forced to make health inferences by drawing from the menu or promotional materials or by using their intuition. Understanding such health inferences related to plant-based meat alternatives (PBMAs), which are available at a rapidly growing number of restaurants, is increasingly important. In addition to their clear environmental benefits, PBMAs are widely promoted as being healthier than traditional meat. Across five experiments, results illustrate that although some perceptions of PBMAs are aligned with reality (e.g., environmental friendliness), consumers greatly underestimate calories and nutrition (e.g., fat, sodium) relative to objective values. Additionally, consumers believe PBMAs are substantially healthier than, and decrease disease risk relative to, traditional meat, which is not always true. The currently accepted interventions of calorie labeling and nutrition information disclosure are not enough to attenuate this “health halo.” However, ensuring that consumers actively compare menu items realigns perceptions with reality. The health halo resulting from inferences formed with the limited information available at the point of purchase has numerous implications for public health, sustainable consumerism, and public policy decisions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Public Policy and Marketing
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Keywords

  • food
  • halo effect
  • health
  • nutrition labeling
  • PBMA
  • plant-based meat alternative
  • policy
  • sustainability

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