When Do Nutrient Content and Nutrient Content Claims Matter? Assessing Consumer Tradeoffs Between Carbohydrates and Fat



Substantial concern about the wide variety of carbohydrate-related claims appearing on consumer packaged food products have been expressed by members of both the marketing and public policy communities. As a result, a number of petitions requesting the establishment of carbohydrate levels required for a low-carbohydrate nutrient content claim have been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration, and the agency is considering the establishment of criteria for such a claim. This research examines the potential effects of a “low-carbohydrate” claim, relative to the effects of a “low-fat” claim, across selected product fat and carbohydrate levels. The study also considers whether consumers’ motivation to process nutrition information serves as a potential moderator of the effects of the nutrient content claims and nutrient levels on the dependent measures. As predicted, the results show key differences across consumer motivation levels. The policy implications of our findings are discussed.