Are You Being Deceived by Green Chocolate Bar Labels?

Chocolate new wonder food hosts health benefitsIf your favourite sweet or chocolate bar has a green nutrition label, it may make you think that it’s healthier than ones with a red or white label – even if they contain the same calories. This is according to a new study published in the journal Health Communication, whose author, Jonathon Schuldt, has now called on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to carefully consider the colour of front of pack labelling systems, in order to guard diet and nutritional wellness against confused purchases.


According to Schuldt, ‘Green labels may alter how people perceive the nutritional information conveyed by the label, perhaps leading them to perceive candy – likely seen as a “vice” food under normal circumstances – in a healthier light.’ One such company who uses calorie labels with a green background is Mars who, in 2008, claimed to be the first confectionary company in the US to implement Guideline Daily Amounts (GDA) on the front of all of its food products. The company has now labelled its products across the globe accordingly.


Schuldt’s warning to the FDA is based on his own research, which involved two studies that assessed the impact of colour. For his first study, Schuldt presented participants with two chocolate bars both labelled as containing 260 calories. One label was red and the other was green and participants were asked to rank which would be better for health and wellbeing. The second experiment was the same, only this time comparing a green-labelled chocolate bar and a white one.


The results of both studies revealed that people considered chocolate bars with green labels to be more healthy, even though they contained the exact same amount of calories as those with red or white ones. Schuldt explained, ‘That the colour of the calorie label influenced healthfulness perceptions is consistent with psychological research demonstrating that colours carry meaning.’


The study said that, alongside associating the colour green with health, consumers may also link it, on some level, to “go” – especially when they’re hungry. Luckily, here in the UK, our food labelling system is based on this very idea, with a traffic-light approach that indicates varying levels of healthiness in products. On our labels, green indicates a low number of calories, as well as other wellness factors such as fat, salt and sugar, whilst red serves as a warning that the product contains a high level of these ingredients.

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