It seems that giving customers health information to chew on might not get them to pick healthier options. A study co-authored by UCLA Anderson’s Phillip Leslie, associate professor of strategic management, did find a six-percent decrease in calorie consumption at Starbucks after calorie-count posting. However, that small affect was income and education dependent.
The researchers also found folks didn't abandon that high-calorie beverage just because they knew the damage to their waistline. They did, however, make changes to their food purchases. Leslie and his co-authors concluded, “Survey evidence and analysis of commuters suggests the mechanism for the effect is a combination of learning and salience.”
An op-ed by Frank Bruni in The New York Times’ Sunday Review highlighted the 2011 research in an attempt to digest results of the five-year-old New York City rule requiring calorie-count posting. The data thus far isn’t encouraging, he concludes. “We should certainly continue to give posted calorie counts a whirl. Even a tiny impact is better than none,” he writes. “But we also need a more forceful kick in our amply cushioned rears. We’re not as plump as we are because we’ve never had our eyes opened to the wages of a Whopper.”