Breaking Bad Habits: How Marketing Incentives Can Lead to Healthy Food Choices

9153746729_9fb261fcdf_zThe rise of processed foods in the past century has brought with it a rising tide of health concerns. Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes have all been linked to diets high in fat, sodium, and sugar, leading many to seek out healthier alternatives. But making the switch from cookies and potato chips to broccoli and apples is easier said than done–so how can consumers start to make better food choices? A recent article from published in Cornell Hospitality Quarterlyentitled “McHealthy: How Marketing Incentives Influence Healthy Food Choices” delves into how certain marketing incentives can help consumers break their unhealthy habits and make better choices. Authors Elisa K. Chan, Robert Kwortnik, and Brian Wansink specifically compare the efficacy of behavioral rewards versus financial discounts in motivating individuals to change their eating habits. The abstract for the article:

Food choices are often habitual, which can perpetuate Current Issue Coverunhealthy behaviors; that is, selection of foods high in sodium, saturated fat, and calories. This article extends previous research by examining how marketing incentives can encourage healthy food choices. Building on research examining marketing incentives, temporal goals, and habitual behavior, this research shows that certain incentives (behavioral rewards vs. financial discounts) affect individuals with healthy and less healthy eating habits differently. A field study conducted at a corporate cafeteria and three lab studies converge on a consistent finding: The effects of marketing incentives on healthy food choice are particularly prominent for people who have less healthy eating habits. Results showed that behavioral rewards generated a 28.5% (vs. 5.5%) increase in salad sales; behavioral rewards also led to 2 pounds more weight loss for individuals with less healthy eating habits. The research offers important implications for scholars, the food industry, consumers, governments, and policy makers.

You can read “McHealthy: How Marketing Incentives Influence Healthy Food Choices” from Cornell Hospitality Quarterly free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research from Cornell Hospitality QuarterlyClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Image attributed to Sonny Abesamis (CC)

Large Group Interventions

The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science has a new issue available online. To view the December 2011 issue, please click here.

Christopher G. Worley, Susan A. Mohrman and Jennifer A. Nevitt, all of University of Southern California, published “Large Group Interventions: An Empirical Field Study of Their Composition, Process, and Outcomes” as the lead article.

The abstract:

Large group interventions are an important method of organization change. The large group intervention literature is largely descriptive and normative and contains a number of case studies that describe the process and some immediate outcomes. There is a large void with respect to empirical investigation. This research tested fundamental hypotheses related to large group composition, process, and outcomes in a field study. Six large group interventions (decision accelerators) were used to develop clinical service area strategies and instigate strategic change in a health care system. The results support the assertion that stakeholder diversity in the group’s composition affects the number of stakeholder perspectives that were heard during the meeting and the breadth of issues addressed during decision making, but failed to support the assertion that composition affects the intensity of debate and disagreement. Stakeholder diversity had a weak relationship with novel and relevant large group outcomes, but debate intensity was strongly related to those outcomes. The implications of these results on large group intervention research and practice are discussed.

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