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The influence of familiarity of a health claim

To analyse the influence of familiarity of a health claim, researchers from the University of Saarland exposed study participants to different versions of a health claim in an experimental supermarket in Germany. Data was obtained using eye-tracking glasses and questionnaires. The name of the nutrient in the claim was varied (‘Vitamin C’ vs. ‘ascorbic acid’) as well as the function (‘tautness of the skin’ vs. ‘collagen formation of the dermis’). Results showed that people believed more in the healthiness of the product when the claim was familiar, i.e. when they saw ‘Vitamin C’ and the function ‘tautness of the skin’, rather than the more abstract terms. This increased belief also led to a higher purchase intention. However, if the claim was perceived as very familiar and contained no new information (‘with Vitamin C – for a normal function of the immune system’), the attention towards the claim and the purchase intention dropped down. Using new information in the claim may prevent this ‘wear-out’ effect and increase people’s attention.

Some study participants were primed (meaning influenced) indirectly by showing them a display of a healthy breakfast stand in the supermarket, subtly giving them a health goal. Again, the more familiar claim (‘with Vitamin C – for a normal tautness of the skin’) was preferred by the primed participants, compared to the more unfamiliar claim (‘with ascorbic acid – for a normal collagen formation of the dermis’). Priming also increased people’s attention towards health claims. This indicates that a shopping environment which promotes healthy eating (e.g. by showing pictures of healthy food) may lead to healthier purchases.