Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration (PhD)

Degree Level





Scot Burton

Committee Member

Molly Rapert

Second Committee Member

Daniel Villanova


Disclosures, Food processing, Nutrient content claims, Package Labeling, Public Policy, Sustainability


Recent consumer trends reveal increasing demand for greater product transparency including how products are processed, the types of ingredients used, and the impact on the environment. As a result, food marketers often use a combination of processing, nutrient content, and/or sustainability claims to convey specific information to consumers. Considering these developments, several questions arise about how these claims affect consumer evaluations of healthfulness, sustainability, disease risk, and intent to purchase while considering the unregulated and regulated nature of many of these claims.

In Essay One, we extend our understanding of consumer responses to package claims by comparing the direct and indirect effects of processing claims, nutrient content claims, and ingredient lists on consumer evaluations. Results from three studies indicate significant indirect effects on purchase intentions for processing claims and ingredient lists through the mediators of clean label and nutrition evaluations (in parallel), and perceived healthfulness (in serial). These findings suggest clean labels, relative to nutrient content claims, more positively influence how consumers define “healthy” and form purchase intentions. Processing claims were shown to be more influential, and although unregulated, they were also shown to lead to inappropriate inferences.

In Essay Two, we address the use of processing stop-sign disclosures to mitigate these inferences and aid consumer decision-making regarding ultra-processed foods (UFPs). Results from three studies suggest the use of processing stop sign disclosures attenuate the positive effects of unregulated and regulated processing claims on perceived processing level which, in turn, mediates effects on perceived healthfulness, disease risk, and purchase intent. These findings offer multiple implications for food marketers, consumer health agencies, and public policy.

In addition to processing related information, consumers are increasingly interested in the sustainability of the food products they are purchasing as the negative effects of global climate change are directly impacting their daily lives. Restaurants are beginning to take advantage of these trends by displaying numeric and symbolic information to aid consumers in decision-making. In Essay 3, we compare the effects of objective numeric (NKG) sustainability information in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (kg-CO2e) to positive “Cool Food Meal” (CFM) icons, which are increasingly used in restaurant contexts, and negative Chilean-Style stop sign (SS) icons that are currently used to highlight excessive nutrient content for food products (e.g., sodium, saturated fat). Studies 1 and 2 explore the effectiveness of these interventions on entrée choice while Study 3 expands to better understand how a growing segment of climate-conscious consumers (i.e., climavores) utilizes this information. Results also suggest that these interventions lead to positive indirect effects on attitude and patronage towards the restaurant with the CFM icon providing a potential win-win situation for restaurant marketers interested in reducing the environmental impact of customer choice while increasing attitudes and patronage towards their establishments. In light of these findings, I offer implications for restaurant managers, environmental agencies, and public policy.

Available for download on Monday, October 14, 2024