How Do Nutritional Warning Labels Affect Prices?

Max J. Pachali*, Marco J.W. Kotschedoff, Arjen van Lin, Bart J. Bronnenberg, Erica van Herpen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Obesity is increasing worldwide, and in many countries, the problem is particularly serious among lower-income groups. Front-of-pack nutritional warning labels are a prominent regulatory tool to fight obesity and have been implemented or are currently being debated in many countries. Existing studies document that warning labels incentivize consumers to substitute away from unhealthy products. However, not much is known about equilibrium price changes in response to consumers’ utility for warning labels. Using household purchase data in the cereal category, this article studies the adjustments of prices after the mandatory introduction of warning labels in Chile. The authors develop a model showing that warning labels lead to higher prices of labeled cereals, as is also observed in data. In contrast, prices of unlabeled products tend to drop or at least increase less, incentivizing price-sensitive consumers to remain in the category. The authors decompose postlabeling market share adjustments into a pure label effect that fixes prices at initial levels after regulation and a total effect that accounts for price reoptimizations. Their findings point to self-enforcing effects of a warning label regulation as the price adjustments amplify policy makers' goal of reducing unhealthy food intake, especially because market forces incentivize low-income segments to choose healthier alternatives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-109
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Volume60
Issue number1
Early online date19 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

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