Imagine you’re in the aisle of your favorite grocery store, bombarded with hundreds of the latest and greatest products on the market. After grabbing a box of your favorite pasta off the shelf, you notice a new organic version of the spaghetti sauce you usually buy. Strikingly, you notice that the price is at almost a 50 percent premium compared to what your usual sauce costs.
Here we go again, you think: You have to empty your wallet to buy the “healthy” stuff.
If this describes how you think about the relationship between food health and price, you’re not alone. This belief is so pervasive that tips on how to eat healthy on a budget are everywhere, implying that most consumers think this is a truly difficult task. Who hasn’t heard Whole Foods’ nickname, “Whole Paycheck,” or seen incredibly cheap pricing on unhealthy fast food?
Measuring the relationship between health and price of food is, in fact, difficult as it can be evaluated in a variety of ways, from price per calorie to price per average portion.
So how pervasive is the view that “healthy equals expensive” and why do consumers think this way?
In a series of studies recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research, we found that consumers do tend to believe that healthy foods are in fact more expensive. While this may actually hold true in only some product categories, we discovered that many consumers tend to believe this relationship holds across all categories, regardless of the evidence.