Effect of environmental food labeling on customers food purchase
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- Master Thesis 
The scientific community agrees that emission levels from food production and consumption have to decrease in order for the world to reach climate targets. Environmental food labeling is becoming a policy tool to motivate consumers in their behavior of food purchase and consumption. This study examined sales data over 42 days from a major student cafeteria at the University of Oslo before and after the introduction of a traffic-light labeling system. In addition, the traffic-light labeling system’s effect on food purchase was compared to two other labeling systems, green-only and red-only labeling systems. The traffic-light labeling marked all dishes as red (highest environmental impact), yellow (medium environmental impact) or green (lowest environmental impact). The red-only labeling system denoted only the highest environmental impact dish with red. In the green-only label system only the dish with the lowest environmental impact was labeled green. We analyzed two food products, meat and vegetarian dishes, investigating the percentage change in sales for the entire 42 days treatment period and for the 20 first and 22 last days separately. Independent t-test and ordinary least squares (OLS) method were used for analyzing the effectiveness of the food labeling systems. For the first 20 days of the experiment, traffic-light labeling led to a significant reduction in sales share of meat dishes (highest environmental impact dishes). Both statistical tests supported these results. Furthermore, the OLS method found a significant effect on sales share of meat dishes under traffic-light labeling for the whole 42 days treatment period. Traffic-light, red-only and green-only labeling did not have a significant effect on sales share of the vegetarian dishes (lowest environmental impact dishes). Looking at the results, one may claim that costumers need to compare the environmental information of one product to other products in order for an eco-label to influence purchase behavior. At the current level of evidence, eco-labels cannot be recommended as a single strategy for changing consumer behavior. Since the present study showed a small, but a significant, reduction of one labeling system on the purchase of meat dishes, further research on the influence of eco-labels are needed before these labeling formats can be recommended as a public environmental intervention.