Sugar in disguise or healthy indulgence: A cross-cultural comparision of the perceptions of dietary vice/virtue bundles

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Consumers often choose virtue food to attain health goals and vice food to achieve indulgence goals. However, food and beverage companies have begun to nullify the vice and virtue categories by bundling vice and virtue ingredients into a single item (e.g. Yogurt with Oreo topping). This research contrasts how consumers from Asian and Western cultures evaluate such vice/virtue food bundles. Building on the perceptual processes and regulatory focus literatures, two cross-cultural experiments using participants in Thailand and the U.S. shows that Westerners prefer virtue-heavy bundles to vice-heavy bundles while Asians show similar preference across both types of bundle. Process measures revealed that Asians perceive greater fit between vice and virtue components in the bundles than Westerners and this perceived fit mediates the effect of culture on their food choice. Study 2 reveals the boundary condition. Specifically, when regulatory focus was manipulated, the effect of culture is no longer significant. The findings provide managerial implications for food and beverage companies as well as contributions to consumer behavior literature.

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