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Heterogeneous Consumer Responses to Snack Food Taxes and Warning Labels


  • This study was conducted with financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Agricultural Policy Research Network on Consumer and Market Demand, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The authors wish to thank Dana Harper, Gillian Schafer and Randy Page for research assistance, Elizabeth Chapkovsky for editorial assistance, and Kim Raine for substantial input.


The possible effects of targeted snack food taxes on purchase decisions were assessed via computer-assisted intercept surveys in Canadian supermarkets, utilizing attribute-based stated preference methods (“choice experiments”). Participants were asked to choose between high-fat snacks, some displaying a warning label, and healthier snacks. Latent class models explaining choice were estimated. Results show heterogeneity of consumer response, with notable implications for public health. One class heeds warning labels, another avoids less healthy snacks and becomes more sensitive to price when a warning label is present, and a third class is sensitive to price but not warning labels.