The Best of Both Worlds? Effects of Attribute-Induced Goal Conflict on Consumption of Healthy Indulgences

December 2012 | ,

Marketers commonly assume that health claims attached to otherwise unhealthful food stimulate consumption because such claims offer justification for indulgence and reduce guilt. This article proposes a generalized theory of healthful indulgences, identifying when and why people overconsume versus regulate food intake in response to health claims. Four studies demonstrate that not all health claims are created equal. The authors suggest that the nature of the food attributes the claims emphasize-namely, functional versus hedonic-determines the extent of consumption of the indulgence. Health claims featuring functional attributes (e.g., ‘extra antioxidants’) trigger high levels of health-goal accessibility, which, together with simultaneously accessible indulgence goals attached to the indulgence, results in goal conflict. This conflict leads to reduced consumption of the food. In contrast, health claims featuring hedonic attributes (e.g., ‘low fat’) render health goals less accessible while accentuating the pleasure dimension of the food, resulting in lower goal conflict and increased consumption of the food. Implications for the food industry and public policy makers are discussed.



  • Nina Belei
  • Kelly Geyskens
  • Caroline Goukens
  • Jos Lemmink


Journal of Marketing Research (JMR)