This study examines the health halo and horn effects in the context of two fast food brands commonly associated with healthy and unhealthy food (i.e., Subway and McDonald's). Health halo is consumers' tendency to overestimate the healthiness of certain food categories or items based on a single claim, whereas health horn is the tendency to underestimate it. Specifically, we investigated the moderating effects of nutritional information disclosure and dietary restraint on consumers' behavioral intentions. Two items from the McDonald's and Subway menus each served as stimuli. They represented health halo confirmation (Roast Chicken sandwich) or disconfirmation (Italian Spicy sandwich) and health horn confirmation (Big Mac burger) or disconfirmation (McSpicy Cajun Burger). This study employed a 2 (nutritional information: present vs. absent) × 4 (menu item type: a health halo or horn associated with Subway or McDonald's menu items with favorable and unfavorable nutritional profiles) and 2 (dietary restraint: restrained eaters vs. unrestrained eaters) × 4 (menu item type: a health halo or horn associated with Subway or McDonald's menu items with favorable and unfavorable nutritional profiles) mixed factorial design. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions (nutritional information: present vs. absent) and presented with all four menu items. There was a decrease in behavioral intentions toward all menu items except the one representing health horn disconfirmation. In particular, behavioral intentions were most substantially weakened for the item that entailed a health halo disconfirmation (Italian Spicy sandwich). The findings not only delineate the different practices companies adopt but also underscore the importance of nutritional information disclosure in helping consumers make healthier food choices.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nutrition and Dietetics