The present study aimed to (i) assess the appetitive drives evoked by the visual cues of ultra-processed food and drink products and (ii) investigate whether text warnings reduce appetitive drives and consumers’ reported intentions to eat or drink ultra-processed products.
In Study I, a well-established psychometric tool was applied to estimate the appetitive drives associated with ultra-processed products using sixty-four image representations. Sixteen product types with four exemplars of a given product were included. Pictures from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) served as controls. The two exemplars of each product type rated as more appetitive were selected for investigation in the second study. Study II assessed the impact of textual warnings on the appetitive drive towards these thirty-two exemplars. Each participant was exposed to two picture exemplars of the same product type preceded by a text warning or a control text. After viewing each displayed picture, the participants reported their emotional reactions and their intention to consume the product.
Controlled classroom experiments
Undergraduate students (Study I: n 215, 135 women; Study II: n 98, 52 women).
In Study I, the pictures of ultra-processed products prompted an appetitive motivation associated with the products’ nutritional content. In Study II, text warnings were effective in reducing the intention to consume and the appetitive drive evoked by ultra-processed products.
This research provides initial evidence favouring the use of text warnings as a public policy tool to curb the powerful influence of highly appetitive ultra-processed food cues.