Menu Psychology to Encourage Healthy Menu Selections at a New Jersey University

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Authors: Feldman, C., Su, H., Mahadevan, M., Brusca, J. and Hartwell, H.

Journal: Journal of Culinary Science and Technology

Volume: 12

Issue: 1

Pages: 1-21

eISSN: 1542-8044

ISSN: 1542-8052

DOI: 10.1080/15428052.2013.798605

The objective of this research was to investigate whether merchandizing strategies could encourage college students to make healthy foodservice menu selections. Two hundred sixty-six Montclair State University, New Jersey, students participated during the spring 2011 semester. Three menus were adapted from previous research: a generic control menu; a treatment menu, which utilizes menu merchandizing strategies to promote the healthier items; and a duplicate of the treatment menu with nutrition labels added. A demographic questionnaire was also distributed. The merchandising treatments were not significant for the participants' top choice, though placing boxes around healthy items had a significant effect (p = 0.025). This positive effect was mitigated when nutrient labels were added. Overall, nutrient labeling was not an effective strategy for promoting healthy food choices in this study. Menus designed to promote good nutrition may have the potential to encourage healthier decisions through hidden persuaders, without restricting students' freedom of dietary choice. © 2014 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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