The Influence of Health Motivation and Calorie Ending on Preferences for Indulgent Foods

Jungsil Choi, Yexin Jessica Li, Adriana Samper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Food and beverage manufacturers now regularly display "just below" calorie amounts (e.g., 99, 199, 299) in advertisements, presumably to appeal to health-motivated consumers. "Just below" values are those that fall one or more digits below a round number, most commonly seen as nine-ending numbers. However, although nine-ending prices are known to stimulate purchase intent, it is unclear whether or when nine-ending calorie labeling shapes food preferences. The present research shows that when consumers view indulgent foods with just-below (vs. round-ending) calorie amounts, they exhibit higher consumption intentions, purchase intent, and consumption behavior, yet only if they are high in health motivation. This is due to a tendency for health-motivated consumers to overweigh the leftmost digit in multidigit numbers - a cognitive bias known as the "level effect." This bias results in the perception that just-below (vs. round) -ending indulgent foods have relatively fewer calories, decreasing anticipated guilt and increasing consumption intentions and behavior. The superiority of just-below calorie presentation under health motivation is attenuated with the addition of reference intake labeling (i.e., % daily calorie intake values), which equalizes the magnitude of nine- and round-ending calorie indulgent foods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)606-619
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • calorie ending
  • calories
  • health motivation
  • indulgent foods
  • level effect
  • nutrition labels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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