Morgan Bast's Blog

Organic = healthy? Consumers seem to think so.

If something is labeled as “organic,” I trust it. I trust that the sources are pure, it lacks GM ingredients and it was as sustainably and humanely produced as possible. But when it comes to organic cookies, ice cream or other treats, I never thought the “organic” label meant the food was lower-calorie or had less fat. Apparently, I’m alone.

Psychologists at the University of Michigan, Jonathan Schuldt and Norbert Schwartz, released a new report called “The Organic path to obesity? Organic claims influence calorie judgments and exercise recommendations” outlining consumers’ judgments of the “organic” label. In the study of 114 students, most assumed that if a cookie did not have an “organic” label, it had more calories than one with the label. (Both cookies given to the students had the same calorie amount.)

“These inferences are…more pronounced among perceivers high on pro-environmentalism,” Schuldt and Schwartz outlined in the study. “Moreover, when evaluating a person with a weight-loss goal, forgoing exercise is deemed more acceptable when the person has just chosen organic rather than conventional dessert.”

This study begs the question: Will we see a new epidemic of obese, organically-minded consumers? Will more people start buying unhealthy organic treats believing they are healthy? Will America’s diabesity problem be the result of organic chocolate chip cookies and organic chicken wings and not of fast food and trans fat?

What do you think? Are your shoppers smarter (and healthier) than these students? Do you feel a duty to educate people on the true meaning of “organic?” Sound off below.

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