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What’s In a Name? ‘Organic’ Tastes Better

What's In a Name? 'Organic' Tastes BetterA new study discovers the word “organic” can bias a person’s impression of food products, influencing shopping and spending habits.

Researchers say an organic label can lead us to think a food is healthier, through what is known as the “health halo effect.” And certain people seem to be more prone to the effect than others.

In the study, Cornell researchers discovered an organic label can influence much more than health views as perceptions of taste, calories and value can be significantly altered when a food is labeled “organic.”

In the study, 115 people were recruited from a local shopping mall in Ithaca, N.Y. Participants were asked to evaluate three pairs of products — two yogurts, two cookies and two potato chip portions.

One item from each food pair was labeled “organic”, while the other was labeled “regular” — even though all of the product pairs were organic and identical. Participants were asked to rate the taste and caloric content of each item, and how much they would be willing to pay for the items.

A questionnaire also inquired about their environmental and shopping habits.

Researchers discovered that even though these foods were all the same, the “organic” label greatly influenced people’s perceptions.

The cookies and yogurt were estimated to have significantly fewer calories when labeled “organic” and people were willing to pay up to 23.4 percent more for them.

The nutritional aspects of these foods were also greatly biased by the health halo effect. The “organic” cookies and yogurt were said to taste “lower in fat” than the “regular” variety, and the “organic” cookies and chips were thought to be more nutritious!

The label even tricked people’s taste buds: when perceived as “organic,” chips seemed more appetizing and yogurt was judged to be more flavorful.

“Regular” cookies were reported to taste better — possibly because people often believe healthy foods are not tasty. All of these foods were exactly the same, but a simple organic label made all the difference.

Investigators discovered that people who regularly read nutrition labels, those who regularly buy organic food, and those who exhibit pro-environmental behaviors (such as recycling or hiking) were less susceptible to the organic health halo effect.

Source: Cornell University

Organic label photo by shutterstock.

What’s In a Name? ‘Organic’ Tastes Better

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). What’s In a Name? ‘Organic’ Tastes Better. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 2 Apr 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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