Nudging to Reduce Meat Consumption: Can Indulgent or Healthy Descriptors Promote Vegetarian Food Choices?

Alina Rieforth & Hanna Theis

Student thesis: Master thesis


With growing evidence for the major negative effects of global meat consumption on human health and the environment, nudging seems to offer policy makers a promising way to shift consumers towards more plantbased diets and consequently reduce their meat intake. However, prevailing research regarding the effectiveness of nudging as a way to influence food choices is limited, especially for nudging studiesthat utilize food descriptors as a strategy. The present study aims to extend existing research by investigating the effect of indulgent (“soulcomforting”) and healthy (“nutritious green”) descriptors, compared to basic (“plant-based”) descriptors, on consumers’ propensity to choose a vegetarian food box over a meat box. The study further examines whether the influence of indulgent and healthy descriptors on vegetarian food choice is moderated by other variables. The study is based on an online questionnaire with a choice experimentinvolving 910 respondents. No significant difference in the food box choice was found between the indulgent, healthy and basic descriptors, while the indulgent descriptor alone had a significant direct effect on the likelihood of selecting a vegetarian food box. Participants’ state of hunger negatively moderated the relationship between indulgent descriptors and vegetarian food choice and healthy descriptors and vegetarian food choice, respectively. The findings of the study suggest that using indulgent and healthy descriptors for vegetarian food represents a novel, low-cost nudge strategy that holds potential for stimulating plant-based consumption. Practitioners, policy makers and the general public may benefit from employing the nudge strategy to encourage a shift towards less meat-heavy diets.

EducationsMSc in International Business, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages160
SupervisorsJesper Clement