It’s only natural: the mediating impact of consumers’ attribute inferences on the relationships between product claims, perceived product healthfulness, and purchase intentions
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Foods positioned as natural, all-natural, and 100% natural can be found across a wide variety of product categories. However, the FDA has not provided a formal definition of the term “natural,” and this has resulted in a surge in class action lawsuits filed against manufacturers due to the potentially misleading use of natural claims. Activation theory and the inferential processing literature serve as the conceptual foundation for three studies that examine the effects of natural claims on consumers’ attribute inferences and product evaluations. Results suggest that natural claims affect consumers’ attribute inferences, which in turn influence product evaluations. Furthermore, findings show that the provision of objective information regarding the ambiguity of natural claims moderates the effects of these claims on consumers’ attribute inferences and product evaluations. The implications for marketing management, those involved in litigation driven by potentially deceptive natural claims, and the policy community are discussed.
KeywordsProduct labeling Natural claims Retail food choices False and misleading inferences Health halos Activation theory
The authors thank the Editor-in-Chief, the Area Editor, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.
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