Field Notes

Consumers Willing to Pay More for ‘All-Natural’ Labeled Foods

A study published in the Journal of Food Science found that expectations of product quality, nutritional content, and the amount of money consumers were willing to pay increased when consumers saw a product labeled “all natural” as compared with the same product without the label.

Researchers at The Ohio State University used virtual reality technology to simulate a grocery store taste-test of peanut butter. In one condition, consumers were asked by a server to evaluate identical products, with only one being labeled “all natural.” In the other, the server additionally emphasized the all-natural status of the one sample.

In the first condition, expectations of product quality and nutritional content increased, but not liking or willingness to pay additional for the all-natural product. However, expectations of product quality and nutritional content as well as the amount of money subjects were willing to pay increased further when a virtual in-store server identified one of the peanut butters as being made with all-natural ingredients. This result was observed across a diverse group of subjects indicating the broad impact of the all-natural label.

Currently, the FDA hasn’t provided a clear definition of the phrases “natural” or “all natural,” despite extensive use in US product marketing. Previous research has indicated that consumers define “natural” primarily by the absence of “undesirable” attributes such as additives and human intervention, as opposed to the presence of specific positive qualities.

“We believe our findings provide sound, evidence-based guidance to the FDA and suggest the term ‘natural’ be regulated so as to minimize consumer and manufacturer confusion over the term. This will serve to protect America’s consumers and manufacturers by ensuring food labels convey accurate and nonmisleading information,” according to lead study author Christopher T. Simons, PhD.

— Source: Institute of Food Technologists


Dairy Intake May Impact Breast Cancer Risk

Specific dairy foods may influence breast cancer risk in women, although risk varies by the source of the dairy product, according to a study published in the journal Current Developments in Nutrition. Researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, report that while high overall consumption of dairy products, and in particular of yogurt, is linked to a lower risk of breast cancer, high intake of American, cheddar, and cream cheeses was associated with a slightly increased risk of breast cancer.

The case-control study examined the association between the types and quantity of dairy foods consumed among 1,941 women diagnosed with breast cancer and 1,237 control participants in the Roswell Park Data Bank and BioRepository between 2003–2014. Participants’ usual intake of dairy foods was identified using a self-administered food frequency questionnaire and grouped into monthly intakes of total dairy, milk, yogurt, low-fat cheese, other cheese, and sweet dairy products. The study adjusted for age, race, BMI, menopausal status, energy intake, type of milk usually consumed, cigarette smoking status, and family history of breast cancer.

“Dairy foods are complex mixtures of nutrients and nonnutrient substances that could be negatively as well as positively associated with breast cancer risk. Future studies are needed to confirm the protective potential of yogurt in this type of cancer,” says lead author of the study Susan McCann, PhD, RD, a professor of oncology in the department of cancer prevention and control at Roswell Park.

“This study of the differences among women and their consumption of dairy products offers significant new understanding into the potential risk factors associated with breast cancer,” says senior author Christine Ambrosone, PhD, senior vice president for population sciences and chair of the department of cancer prevention and control.

“While diet is thought to be responsible for 30% of all cancers, we hope that further research will help us to more fully understand which food products are most valuable in terms of reducing risk of this disease.”

— Source: Roswell Park Cancer Institute