This programme is funded by the Department of Health. We investigate how consumers make food choices and we test potential interventions designed to promote better choices.
In the first year, we conducted an experimental pre-test of different formats for calorie posting on restaurant menus. The study used a lab-in-the-field experiment that allowed us to track consumers’ eye-movements while they picked their lunch from a menu. The results (paper) showed that calorie posting reduced consumption, but the effect depended on the format. This behavioural evidence is informing planned legislation.
In the second year, we conducted two field trials to test whether the amount of high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) foods people eat can be reduced by printing salient visual cues on packaging that show appropriate portion sizes. The results (paper) showed that the visual cues reduced consumption in some subgroups of the population.
In a third study (working paper), we looked at the effect of NutriScore labelling on consumer choice and consumption. The study involved consumers making real purchases in an online store. Consumers who shopped with Nutri-Score labelled products made healthier purchases compared to those who shopped without labels, and wider availability of healthy options increased healthier purchases.
A fourth study is looking at perceptions of the obesity epidemic. To assess whether beliefs are comparable across different countries, the online study will be conducted with people in Ireland, the UK and US. We will test whether contextualising the epidemic as something that has developed over decades changes perceived causes, consequences, and support for different types of policies, compared to contextualising it as a problem of today. We will benchmark public perceptions against those of an expert sample. Results are expected in 2023.