Analysis of choice behaviour and potential mechanisms of change

This project reviewed the relevant economic literature to map out theoretical approaches and empirical examples for further analysis. Econometric analysis was then carried out using secondary data to investigate children’s diets and adult fruit and vegetable consumption. A discrete choice experiment (DCE) was undertaken to investigate the effect of introducing colour coding of calorie information within a traffic light food labelling system. The DCE incorporated eye-tracking technology in the pilot stage to help understand the effect of the additional information. A full-scale study was then conducted using an online panel.

Outcome and Translation

The secondary data analysis of children’s diets showed that household characteristics explain more of the variation than child characteristics, with adult healthy eating behaviour positively associated with children’s behaviour. The inclusion of both child and household effects reduces the amount of unexplained variation in children’s healthy eating although the unexplained variation remains substantial. The analysis of adult diet identified differences in determinants between fruit and vegetables and separate effects for income level and source of income.

In the food choice DCE, we found that saturated fat appears to be the attribute with largest impact on participants’ choices, followed by fat, with salt consistently ranked as least influential attribute. The willingness-to-pay (WTP) values are largely influenced by the number of sandwiches presented to the participants, with lower levels of WTP for a four sandwich choice. We also found that deciding to colour-code for calorific value has an important effect on the valuation of this attribute. Our results confirm that colour coding the nutritional information can significantly influence food choices.


HERU researchers involved in this research project: Anne Ludbrook, Shelley Farrar, Lynda McKenzie, Damilola Olajide, Patrícia Norwood, Nicolas Krucien and Mandy Ryan

External collaborators: P Morgan (Rowett Institute of Health and Nutrition (RIHN))


Bestwick, C.S., Douglas, F.C.G., Allan, J.L., Macdiarmid, J.I., Ludbrook, A. and Carlisle, S. (2013) 'A perspective on the strategic approach to the complexity and challenges of behaviour change in relation to dietary health', Nutrition Bulletin, 38(1), 50-56.


Olajide, D., McKenzie, L. and Ludbrook, A. (2014) 'The role of income status or household main-source of income in the determinants of dietary inequalities', Health Economics in the Age of Longevity: a Joint iHEA & ECHE Congress, Trinity College, Dublin, 13-16 July 2014.

Olajide, D., McKenzie, L. and Ludbrook, A. (2014) 'Censored household demand for fruits and vegetable: evidence from the UK’s Living Costs and Food Survey', 35th Annual Nordic Health Economists’ Study Group Meeting, Reykjavik, Iceland, 20-22 August 2014.

Ludbrook, A. (2014) 'Prompting healthy food choices: what does economics tell us?', Promoting behaviour change in food and drink consumption and production. Identifying future priorities: what does the evidence tell us? A workshop for Scottish Government, Edinburgh, October 2014.

Norwood, P., Krucien, N., Ryan, M. and Ludbrook, A. (2014) 'Does calorie labelling need the green light? Findings from an eye tracking experiment', [Poster pdf] Annual Scottish Faculty of Public Health Conference - Health in a changing Scotland: the ball's in our court, Aviemore, 6 November 2014.

Norwood, P. (2015) 'Does calorie labelling need the green light? Findings from an eye tracking experiment', PechaKucha Aberdeen (Public engagement), Belmont Filmhouse, Aberdeen, 26 May 2015.