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Nutritional traffic light and self-regulatory consumption: the role of emotions

Isabel Sánchez-García (Department of Marketing, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain)
Homero Rodríguez-Insuasti (University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain)
José Martí-Parreño (Universidad Europea de Valencia, Valencia, Spain)
Antonio Sánchez-Mena (Universidad Europea de Valencia, Valencia, Spain)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 9 October 2018

Issue publication date: 1 May 2019




The purpose of this paper is to analyse how the nutritional traffic light can reduce consumers’ intention to purchase unhealthy food by eliciting negative emotions (i.e. fear and guilt). The work also examines the moderating role of income in the above-mentioned relationships.


The empirical study was conducted in Ecuador. In an initial phase, exploratory research was carried out with two focus groups. Then a quasi-experiment was conducted with 330 participants following a 3×2 design, in which the nutritional traffic light for a dairy product (green, yellow, red) and the variable income (high and low income) were manipulated.


Traffic light colours (red, yellow and green) significantly influence consumers’ levels of fear and guilt as well as their intention to purchase. Income has also been found to have a moderating effect on the above relationships.

Practical implications

Further understanding of how nutritional labels influence consumer behaviour may have beneficial effects for public authorities attempting to improve citizens’ health and for society as a whole. It may also help firms that produce and market packaged foods to be aware of what type of foods new consumers want and adapt their offering in consequence.


The main contribution of this work is the analysis of the influence of the nutritional traffic light on emotions, namely, fear and guilt and how these emotions lead consumers to control their consumption of unhealthy foods. In addition, the present work proposes the moderating effect of income on the influence of colour on emotions and purchase intention.



Sánchez-García, I., Rodríguez-Insuasti, H., Martí-Parreño, J. and Sánchez-Mena, A. (2019), "Nutritional traffic light and self-regulatory consumption: the role of emotions", British Food Journal, Vol. 121 No. 1, pp. 183-198.



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