Paying more for poor food choices?

A CHOICE investigation has found food companies such as McCain, Weight Watchers, Naturally Good and Mother Earth are using health-related marketing messages designed to give their products a halo effect, even though they perform poorly in the health star rating system.   

CHOICE investigated over 110 products, from frozen meals to muesli bars, and found mixed results as to how health-related marketing messages on a pack translated into the products’ health star performance.

“Food manufacturers use messages on pack to persuade consumers that their product is healthier or better than other similar products. This is called the health halo effect and is often used as a marketing tool to entice consumers into paying a premium”, says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“When you look at two McCain frozen pasta meals – one promoted with ‘healthy choice’ branding, images of herbs and claims of whole grains and chia seeds, and the other with regular company branding – consumers would be forgiven for thinking the first one is a healthier choice.

“Surprisingly, both products receive 3.5 health stars, with the ‘healthy choice’ meal containing more sugars and sodium per 100g and a price premium of 23 per cent per 100g.

“The sad fact is relying on these messages to make informed choices about how healthy a product is can be highly problematic and leave you paying a price premium unnecessarily”, says Mr Godfrey.

For further information on CHOICE’s health halo investigation, visit

Are you persuaded by these health-related marketing messages? What do you look for on a product’s pack to ensure you’re buying something healthy?

Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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