Fitness Branding on Foods Entice Consumers to Eat More

People attempting to stay fit by balancing diet with exercise often look for healthy food products.

A new study discovers, however, that “fitness branding” of food products can encourage people who are concerned about their weight to eat more and exercise less.

In “The Effect of Fitness Branding on Restrained Eaters’ Food Consumption and Post-Consumption Physical Activity,” Hans Baumgartner of Pennsylvania State and co-author Joerg Koenigstorfer explain their findings. The study will appear in a future issue of the Journal of Marketing Research.

The researchers discovered the label “fitness food” may put dieters in “double jeopardy”, as the label appears to makes them eat more and exercise less.

In the study, the authors investigated how restrained eaters — those who are chronically concerned about their body weight — are affected by fitness-branded food in terms of their food consumption and physical activity.

For the experiment, participants were asked to evaluate a new trail mix. Researchers assessed how much a person would eat of the product depending on whether the trail mix was labeled “Fitness Trail Mix” or simply “Trail Mix.” The “Fitness” mix brand also featured a picture of running shoes as a logo.

Participants were instructed to pretend they were at home, eating an afternoon snack. They then had eight minutes to taste and rate the product. In one study participants were also invited to exercise as strenuously as they wanted on a stationary bike after consuming their snack.

The results of the study showed that restrained eaters consumed more food when it was branded with fitness, that the effect held when the food was presented as dietary permitted rather than dietary forbidden, and that restrained eaters were less physically active after consuming fitness-branded food.

In fact, the more fitness-branded food restrained eaters consumed, the less active they became.

“The findings are interesting because this is the first research paper that shows that fitness branding of food does not only affect energy intake but also energy expenditure,” Baumgartner said.

Researchers explain that the fitness-branded food lead to counterintuitive behavior contrary to the principle of energy balance. That is, fitness-branded food decreased physical activity for restrained eaters, even after they had consumed more food than unrestrained eaters.

‚ÄúThis is surprising since restrained eaters should be particularly interested in avoiding and burning off excess calories.”

Source: Pennsylvania State