Falling for the Color Green

March 27th, 2013 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Falling for the Color Green

nutritionLabelWhen it comes to packaging and labeling, particularly within the organic and natural foods industry, green is the hot color. When you see the words “organic” or “natural” on a flyer, poster, or promotional piece, more often than not, the color of the text will be green.

We have come to connect the color green with the earth, nature, and often organic foods. Even without those associations, it has a warm, calming, healing connection, and we tend to associate it with good health. In the context of food, we certainly think healthfulness, vegetables, nutritious ingredients and the like.

A new study was just published by researchers at Cornell University, which found that if you are impressionable to green labels, you’re not alone. The study found that when consumers see green calorie labels, they usually think it’s healthier than food with labels in other colors. And those who fell hardest for this “myth” were people who tended to place a premium on eating healthy, according to the study.

The study asked 93 university students to imagine that they were hungry and see a candy bar while waiting in a grocery checkout lane. The students were then shown an image of a candy bar with either a red or a green calorie label. They were then asked whether the candy bar, compared to others, contains more or fewer calories and how healthy it is. The students perceived the green-labeled bar as more healthful than the red one, even though the calorie content was the same.

The experiment was repeated with 39 online participants who were shown candy with either green or white labels. The participants were asked to what extent the healthiness of food is an important factor in their decision about which foods to buy and eat, on a scale of 1 (not at all important) to 7 (very important). The more importance the participants placed on healthy eating, the more they perceived the white-labeled candy bar as less healthful – a pattern that was eliminated when the candy bar had a green label.

So, what’s the takeaway from this study? I’m guessing we will be seeing more green nutritional labels in the future. Front-of-package calorie labels have become increasingly more common in the United States and Europe – with the likes of M&Ms and Snickers already having green front-of-package calorie flags that are a very obvious part of their packaging.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also considering developing a uniform front-of-package labeling system for the U.S. marketplace, so as more of the nutritional labeling moves front and center on packaging… expect to see lots of green colored labels.