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Beware: Food Packaging is Designed to Promote False Healthiness

Updated: Aug 22

This is a summary of the excellent post by Elvis Hsiao

Published in UX Collective

This blog post summarizes the main points of the article "How is food packaging designed to promote healthiness?" by Elvis Hsiao, published on UX Collective in July 2023.

The article explores how food packaging design influences consumer perception and behavior, and how some brands use deceptive marketing techniques to create a false image of healthfulness for their products.

The article also

  • examines the psychological principles behind these techniques,

  • the ethical implications, and

  • how consumers can make more informed choices.

Hsiao begins the article by presenting the problem of potential deception in health food marketing, citing scientific studies that show how labels such as "organic" can affect our understanding of a food product's nutritional content and lead to overconsumption or poor dietary choices. The article then discusses how food packaging is a powerful communication medium that uses various elements, such as colors, images, health claims, and certifications, to convey healthiness and influence our purchasing decisions. The article provides examples of how these elements are used strategically by different brands and products, such as Whole Foods Market, Kashi cereal, and Vitamin water.

The article then delves into the psychological principles that explain why we are susceptible to these marketing techniques, such as the halo effect, the availability heuristic, and the confirmation bias.

What is the halo effect?

The halo effect is a cognitive bias that occurs when an initial positive judgment about a person or a thing unconsciously colors our perception of their other related traits. For example, if we see a person who is attractive, we may also assume that they are intelligent, friendly, or trustworthy, even if we have no evidence for that.

Similarly, if we see a food product that has a label like "organic" or "natural", we may also assume that it is healthy, low-calorie, or delicious, even if we don't check the nutrition facts.

The article also debates the ethical implications of these techniques, questioning whether they are misleading or manipulative, and whether they have a negative impact on public health and consumer trust.

The article concludes by empowering consumers to make more informed choices by reading nutrition labels, comparing products, and being aware of their own biases and preferences.

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