created over 3 years ago | Tagged:
Why do people eat unhealthy, high-calorie fast food? Is it because they don’t realize how bad it is for them — or do they realize it and just don’t care?
Two years ago, New York City bet it was the former. The city government passed a law requiring all fast-food chains to display the calorie count beside their food listings, right next to the prices. The theory was that if you forced people to see how many calories they were consuming, they’d make healthier picks. But did it work
We find that mandatory calorie posting does influence consumer behavior at Starbucks, causing average calories per transaction to decrease by 6% (from 247 to 232 calories per transaction). The effects are long lasting: the calorie reduction in NYC persists for the entire period of our data, which extends 10 months after the calorie posting commenced.
Here’s what really intrigued me, though: At Starbucks, people behaved differently with food than with beverages
When they calorie postings went up, customers quickly switched to lower-calorie Starbucks foods. But they didn’t switch to lower-calorie beverages. The scientists found calorie intake from food dropped by 14%, while the drop in calories for beverages was “negligible.” Indeed, the majority of the overall calorie reduction — that 6% drop — consisted of customers simply deciding not to order any food while at Starbucks. But when it came to drinks? They barely changed at all.