This paper reviews the current evidence about behavioural insights in the field of (un)healthy food choice that can support the development of behavioural public-policy tools. It extends previous work on behaviourally based policies in health and food choice, both academic and professional. The core of the paper is a summary of reviews of behavioural insights-based interventions and the scientific evidence regarding their efficacy in nudging people towards healthier food choices. Overall, we cover 39 systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses published between 2010 and 2017. Additionally, we outline potential drivers and theories that could help to explain the mechanisms behind these interventions. The paper concludes with a discussion of the results and suggestions for policy-makers aiming to make use of behavioural insights in health policy.
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For instance, the current EU FP7 project “Nudge-it” (https://www.nudge-it.eu/) and the Dutch Project “NUDGIS” (https://www.nwo.nl/en/research-and-results/research-projects/i/11/11011.html).
Whether this is an opportunity to develop dynamic and field-specific nudge concepts or whether this lack of a general taxonomy is deplorable – and whether such an overarching typology is desirable at all – are debatable. The specific potential and limits of nudges can, however, only be revealed case-specifically; in our view, increasing the level of abstraction might be an interesting academic exercise but is not helpful in the real world.
TITLE ((“nudg*” OR “intervention” OR “choice architecture” OR “environment*” OR “label*” OR “information” OR “fact” OR “claim” OR “prim*” OR “prompt” OR “reminder” OR “default” OR “salience” OR “message” OR “plate*” OR “portion*” OR “packag*” OR “container*” OR “place*” OR “incentive” OR “*planning” OR “*commitment*”) AND (“review” OR “meta analysis”)) AND TITLE-ABS-KEY ((“food” OR “diet*” OR “vegetables” OR “fruit” OR “eat*” OR “calori*” OR “meal” OR “menu” OR “energy” OR “nutrition*”) AND (“selection” OR “choice” OR “behaviour” OR “chang*” OR “consum*”)) AND (LIMIT-TO (PUBYEAR, 2010–2017)
An unpublished meta-analysis of 277 effect sizes by Cadario and Chandon (2017) finds calorie reductions between − 45 and − 186 kcal. The authors argue that using the “right” nudge for the specific context can boost effects substantially.
Food Labelling to Advance Better Education for Life, http://flabel.org/.
This label is recently facing criticism in the Netherlands after research showed a lack of understanding among consumers despite the label being implemented for the past 10 years (Consumentenbond 2016).
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The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework programme for research, technological development, and demonstration under grant agreement no 607310 (Nudge-it).
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Bauer, J.M., Reisch, L.A. Behavioural Insights and (Un)healthy Dietary Choices: a Review of Current Evidence. J Consum Policy 42, 3–45 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10603-018-9387-y
- Choice architecture
- Food choice
- Behavioural policy