This study reveals that consumers tend to underestimate calorie counts for companies with positive corporate responsibility programs, and then consume more of the foods produced by them. The study suggests that consumers may infer (often incorrectly), that if the company is engaged in doing ‘good deeds’, their products are healthy. For the research, they split participant groups between two fictional product launches, one company with a positive CSR profile, and the other with neutral CSR, and determined that participants consuming products from the positive CSR profile, ate more. Furthermore, these participants also underestimated the consumed calories for the company with the positive CSR.
Research demonstrates that consumers frequently engage in inference making when evaluating food products. These inferences can be highly inaccurate, leading to unintended, unhealthy consumer choices. Previous research has examined the role of inference making in consumption settings from either an intra- or inter-attribute perspective. The current research highlights extra-attribute inferences, in which consumers use corporate-level information to make inferences about product level attributes. Across four studies the authors demonstrate the existence of a health halo resulting from corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. When consumers evaluate food products marketed by firms with strong CSR reputations, they underestimate the calorie content. Further, the authors demonstrate that this calorie underestimation can lead to overconsumption by consumers.
John Peloza, Christine Ye, and William J. Montford, When Companies Do Good, Are Their Products Good For You? How Corporate Social Responsibility Creates A Health Halo, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing In-Press. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1509/jppm.13.037