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Boost café sales with one quick change

Research shows that indulgent—not healthy—descriptors sell.

Melissa Kvidahl Reilly

January 30, 2018

2 Min Read
Boost café sales with one quick change

Are shoppers more likely to choose healthy foods if they’re described with snazzy language? As it turns out, the answer is yes. According to research from Stanford University, people are more likely to choose vegetables when they're labeled with the kinds of indulgent descriptions typically reserved for more decadent foods.

In their study, researchers described simple green beans in four different ways to see how they’d perform: “green beans” (basic), “light ’n’ low-carb green beans and shallots” (healthy with a restrictive perspective), “healthy energy-boosting green beans and shallots” (healthy with a positive perspective), or “sweet sizzlin’ green beans and crispy shallots” (indulgent). What they found was that the indulgent descriptions performed the best among diners, with diners choosing them 25 percent more than basic labeling, 35 percent more than healthy labeling with a positive spin, and 41 percent more than healthy labeling with a more restrictive, diet-oriented spin.

So why should natural food retailers take notice? First, as organic industry strategic advisor Daniel Lohman explains, indulgent products are growing in sales across multiple channels because shoppers are more willing to splurge on something special. Labeling natural foods with indulgent names, then, capitalizes on shoppers’ willingness to spend and may sway a whole new base toward healthy foods.

“The tactic described in the research helps bring new customers into the sales funnel,” he says. “As the research found, ‘green beans’ by itself is not sexy and does not attract a lot of new shoppers who don't already appreciate and understand the health benefit derived from green beans.”

We asked Lohman to help rename some of the more common menu items found at natural food cafés. Here’s what he suggests.

Instead of: Green juice
Try: Juicy Green Berry Blast
Why? “Green juice sounds like medicine your mom forced you to take when you were sick,” Lohman says. 

Instead of: Grilled chicken
Try: Far-Out and Fired-up Spicy Chicken
Why? “Grilled chicken does not imply something is plump and juicy, mouthwatering and delectable,” he says.

Instead of: Vegetable soup
Try: Smooth Vegan Nirvana
Why? “Vegans are often overlooked and like to hear their name mentioned,” he explains.

Instead of: Portabella mushroom burger
Try: Scrumptious Shroomburger
Why? “Shroomburger sounds playful and light,” he says, “and speaks to the adventurous, open-minded consumer.”

About the Author(s)

Melissa Kvidahl Reilly


Melissa Kvidahl Reilly is a freelance writer and editor with 10 years of experience covering news and trends in the natural, organic and supplement markets. She lives and works in New Jersey.

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