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Researcher Portrait: Sinne Smed

Sinne SmedDr Sinne Smed is an associate professor in consumer behaviour and health at the University of Copenhagen. Together with her team, she investigated the effect the introduction of two health symbols (the Nordic Keyhole and The Dutch Choices logo) may have had on Dutch and Danish consumer food purchases.

How did you get involved in the CLYMBOL project?

We have years of experience researching consumer behaviour generally, and especially the effects of health information and food labels through consumers using the GfK-consumer panel. Understanding the impact of health claims was recognised as a key topic at EU level, which resulted in an FP7 call for proposals in 2011. We were asked to join the consortium to suggest research that could fit with the CLYMBOL project.

 

What do you do for the project?

I am a research partner and lead the work area ‘Econometric analysis of The Effect of Health Claims and Symbols on Purchase and Consumption’. In our part of the project we use commercial household purchase data from two different countries (Denmark and the Netherlands) to model changes in households’ purchases upon the introduction of a health symbol in the market place (Nordic Keyhole and Dutch Choices logo, respectively), comparing the results across products and countries.

 

What is the outcome of your research?

We find that there are no specific characteristics of consumers who purchase products that carry a health symbol, but preferences for other characteristics such as, e.g., organic might be a barrier for such a purchase. Consumers in Denmark and the Netherlands value healthy food products higher than non-healthy counterparts, and the provision of the health symbols constitutes additional value to consumers for the majority of the products. Finally, we find that those that state a great preference for the Keyhole health label are also more likely to purchase such products and have a higher share of their total purchases that carry the health symbol. The latter is not affected by the BMI of the shopper – obese and overweight shoppers are just as consistent in their stated and revealed preferences for the Keyhole as are those with a low or normal BMI.

 

What impact do you hope your research will have?

I hope that our research will support policy makers in improving the information given to consumers to help them make healthier food choices, which in turn will impact public health. On the other hand, I hope the results of the project will also show the food industry that consumers value healthy food and the information given through these health symbols and that they may be willing to pay the potential extra cost involved in producing healthy and labelled products.

 

About the person

Sinne Smed is an associate professor in consumer behaviour and health at the University of Copenhagen. She has a general interest in consumer behaviour, with particular focus on regulating, understanding and explaining consumer behaviour in relation to diet healthiness and the derived environmental effects hereof. Theoretically, her main focus has been on characteristics and hedonic models and specifically modelling how information affects consumers’ decisions and the resulting utility implications. Empirically, she has focussed on micro-econometric investigations allowing for behavioural heterogeneity where the challenge often has been to take self-selection, incomplete data as well as censoring into account.