The results have important practical implications suggesting that to quell the effects of small packages on overcorrection, emphasis on the external control properties of small packages should be minimized. Keywords: package size, self-regulation, external controls, overcompensation, appearance self-esteem Derrick 2006). The overwhelming success of these small package options is likely due to the perception that they allow consumers to indulge in foods they love while feeling virtuous for eating only small amounts.
Indeed, recent research has found that consumers intuitively believe that small packages can limit caloric intake (Cello do Vale, Pitters, and Goldenberg 2008) and that, under certain conditions, consumers ill consume more when the package format is small as opposed to large (Cello do Vale, Pitters, and Goldenberg 2008; Scott et al. 2008). In the cue rent research, we build on this prior work by demonstrating that size alone can influence consumption (I. E. , we show a main effect for package size) and that this is moderated by appearance self-esteem (EASE)-?that is, the self-worth a person derives from his or her body-image and weight.
We posit that the size of small packages conveys information about the package’s regulatory ability (I. E. , that the small package size can function as an external control of food intake) and that certain types of consumers are more likely to rely on this information. We propose that consumers low in EASE are particularly likely to rely on the external control that small packages offer and will consume more when multiple small packages are present than when large packages are present or when individual packages are absent.
Furthermore, we suggest that additional factors (I. E. , visibility of the product quantity, location of the caloric content, and communicated caloric content) that further highlight (or downplay) the small package’s ability to control consumption will augment (or mitigate) this effect. Finally, we argue that responses to small packages are driven, at least in part, by low-EASE consumers engaging in a cognitive process of transferring the responsibility of controlling food intake from the self to the package.
When they do, they rely on the obesity rates worldwide have escalated to the point of becoming a problem of epidemic proportions (World Health Organization 2007). It is estimated that 64% of American adults more than 20 years of age are overweight or obese and that if the current trend continues, this number could reach 75% by 2015 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2003/2004). This has profound medical and economic consequences, with total health costs related to overweight people in the United States alone estimated at $92. 6 billion in 2002 (National Center for Health Statistics 2004).
Given the serious implications of consumers’ expanding waistlines, it is critical to gain an understanding of factors fostering caloric overcompensation. The current research focuses on the impact of one such factor: the way marketers present their products through packaging. In 2004, Kraft initiated a now highly popular trend in the marketplace: small package sizes for snack products that limit caloric intake. Within three years, annual sales of these small packages surpassed $200 million (Mentis and Jennifer J. Argon is Crime Professor of Marketing, School of Business, University of Alberta (e-mail: jean fifer. [email protected] Ca). Katherine White is Associate Professor of Marketing, Sadder School of Business, University of British Columbia (e-mail: [email protected] BBC. Ca). Order Of authorship is alphabetical. The authors thank Jim Bateman, Darrel Dahl, Naomi Mandela, Sarah Moore, Christian Schmidt, and Kathleen Voss for their helpful comments on previous versions of the article. They also thank Monica Poppa for assistance with data analysis. Finally, they thank Daniel Bust’s, Alicia Cruickshank, Pierre Hubert, Marlene Hogwash, Kristin Lindquist, and Tanya Mommas-Hubert for their assistance with data collection.
The financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is gratefully acknowledged. This article was accepted under the editorship of Jay Kohl. Gary Frazier served as coeditor for this article. 2012, American Marketing Association SIGNS 0022-2429 (print), 1547-7185 (electronic) 67 Journal of Marketing Volume 76 (March 2012), 67-80 small packages to manage their consumption, a tendency hat ultimately leads them to increase their caloric intake. The current research makes several contributions to the marketing and self-regulation literatures.
First, to our knowledge, the current research is the first to demonstrate a main effect for package size, revealing that consumption is increased when package size is small (in comparison with large package size and absent package). Whereas previous research has found that increased consumption occurs when the package is small as opposed to large under specific conditions (I. E. , when self-regulatory concerns are activated [Cello do Vale, Pitters, and Goldenberg 2008] and for restrained eaters [Scott et al. 008]), neither of these investigations has indicated a main effect such that consumption increases when package size is small (vs.. Large). Although Scott et al. (2008) find a main effect for package format, this effect is reversed such that people consume more when the package is large than when it is small (see also Wanting 1996). Second, our conceptualization makes the novel prediction that low Eases are more sensitive than their high-EASE counterparts to the presence of external controls (I. E. , external sources that can assist in self-regulation efforts-?in this ease, the regulation of food intake).
In our context, we propose that low Eases are more sensitive to the regulatory assistance that small packages may offer, as well as to factors that highlight the external control properties of small packages. This is because, much like restrained eaters, low Eases are chronically concerned with monitoring and regulating food intake (Herman and Policy 1975, 1980). This sensitivity to external controls makes low Eases more likely to rely on small packages to control their food intake, leading them to consume more when the product is offered in multiple small packages.
Our Ochs on low-EASE consumers’ sensitivity to external controls builds on classic work in eating behavior that indicates that those concerned with monitoring and regulating food intake are particularly susceptible to ambient cues related to the food itself, such as its smell (Federal, policy, and Herman 1997, 2003). We show an important nuance: Low-EASE consumers are also particularly sensitive to information in the environment that signals the ability of an external control to regulate food intake.
Third, and most important, our conceptualization enables us to identify additional aspects of the packaging hat further highlight (or downplay) perceptions of the ability of small packages to control consumption. We propose and find that conditions that highlight the external control properties of small packages-?including making the product quantity visible, increasing the salience of the caloric information on the package itself, and communicating low caloric content-?enhance consumption, particularly among low-EASE consumers.
This contributes to previous research that has examined overcompensation in response to small package formats (Chloe do Vale, Pitters, and Goldenberg 2008; Scott et al. 008) by highlighting that in addition to the moderating role of individual differences, features related to the small packages themselves can further increase consumption. As such, we identify viable ways marketers might modify packaging to either increase or decrease consumption from small packages. 8 / Journal of Marketing, March 2012 Finally, we build on previous work that has proposed both heuristic (Cello do Vale, Pitters, and Goldenberg 2008) and affective (Scott et al. 2008) accounts of the effects of package size on consumption by demonstrating the role that cognition can play in determining overcompensation in response o small packages. We find that the size of a small package serves as a source of information that signals the packages ability to regulate food consumption (I. . , to act as an external control) for the consumer. This encourages low-EASE consumers to engage in a cognitive process of relinquishing portion control to the small packages. These consumers subsequently rely on the package rather than the self to regulate food intake, resulting in increased consumption. We highlight this cognitively driven process by examining the moderating role of cognitive load and demonstrate the counterintuitive finding that low
Eases consume more when they are not under cognitive load than when they are under cognitive load. We also demonstrate the mediating role of package responsibility cognitions in underlying our effects. Theoretical Background Packaging and Consumption Packaging is often the first product attribute to which consumers are exposed. To date, research has studied the impact of various packaging features such as design (McDaniel and Baker 1977), imagery (Underworld, Klein, and Burke 2001), and size (Wanting 1996) on consumer responses.
Specifically, consumers often use packaging to infer information about the product itself, including its laity (McDaniel and Baker 1977), innovativeness (Underworld, Klein, and Burke 2001), and healthiness (Cello De Vale, Pitters, and Goldenberg 2008; Scott et al. 2008). The majority of marketing research studying packaging has focused on size as an attribute. This research largely demonstrates that consumers tend to eat more from a larger (vs.. Smaller) package (e. G. , Rolls et al. 2004; Wanting, Painter, and North 2005) because smaller packages (vs.. Argue packages) contain smaller portions, thereby inducing people to eat less (Dilbert et al. 2004; Ladylike, Ella-Martin, and Rolls 2005; Wanting and Kim 2005; Young and Nestle 002). However, small packages may not always curb consumption and may even increase it when multiple small packages are available. We propose that a reason this may happen is because a small package can convey information that suggests that the package itself can regulate consumption (I. E. , the package can act as an external control), and for some consumers, this can result in a relinquishing of argue Traitor control.
Small Package Size as a Source of External Control Consumers presented with tempting, yet unhealthy, food options are often motivated to self-regulate the amount they consume (e. G. , Voss and Heather 2000). Workbench (1998), for example, shows that one strategy used to regulate consumption is to intentionally ration access to impel Sieve goods by not purchasing larger quantities in response to a unit price reduction. Research has highlighted this counteractive self-control as a process whereby consumers proactively make decisions in ways that serve long-term rather than short-term goals (e. . , in our case, regulating food intake for long-term goals such as health and weight control, rather than eating too much of an immediately gratifying treat; Fastback and Trope 2005). Moreover, research suggests that people will moieties forgo previous reliance on self-regulation in favor of passing on this control to an external source (Fastback and Trope 2005; Trope and Fastback 2000). Extending these findings to the current context, we propose that consumers infer that small packages can act as an external source of control.
In doing so, they transfer control of regulating food intake from the self to the small package. In essence, the decision to consume from the small package is seen as a regulatory act: The package itself can substitute for self-control, and further self-imposed control is no longer necessary (see Fastback and Trope 2005; Ukrainians t al 2002; Trope and Fastback 2000). The consequence of this relinquished control is that people may subsequently fail to self-regulate and will consume more food if multiple small packages are present.
It is important to note that consumers are making the rational assumption that small packages will be more effective than large packages at regulating their food intake for them because a single small package contains less product (and fewer calories) than a single large package. However, transferring portion control to the small package only regulates consumption if a single small package is indeed available or consumed. Often, small packages are sold in bulk in larger bags and boxes.
When multiple small packages are available, the transference of self- regulation control to the package may be problematic because package size only determines serving size and cannot limit the total number of packages consumed. That is, if consumers surrender self-control to the small packages, under certain conditions, this may backfire because they may eat more than one package of the product. Moderating Role of EASE We propose that small packages will have a detrimental effect on consumption levels for all consumers, but we anticipate that this will be especially pronounced for those low in EASE.
Importantly, compared with high Eases, low Eases are more concerned about regulating and monitoring their food intake (Heather and Policy 1991 To provide additional support for this notion, we conducted a pretest in which undergraduate students (n 52) completed the EASE scale (Heather and Policy 1991; C] = . 80) along with items that assessed the extent to which they focused on 1 We note that EASE is a similar construct to that of restrained eating (I. E. , the deliberate effort to combat the physiologically based urge to eat to lose eight or maintain a reduced weight; Federal, Policy, and Herman 1 997, p. 4; Policy, Heather, and Herman 1988). Indeed, restrained eaters also show a tendency to monitor and regulate their food intake (Herman and Policy 1975, 1980). In a pretest (n = 97), we found measures of both EASE and restrained eating to be correlated (r = -. 49, p < . 001 monitoring and regulating food intake: "l often try to control how much eat," "l often try to control my portion sizes when eating," "I often consciously eat less than want," "l often try to regulate how much I eat," "l am constantly ontrolling how much I eat," and "l am constantly monitoring how much I eat' (on five-point scales; њ = . 9). We found that ASE was negatively correlated with monitoring and regulating food intake (r = -. 49, p 001). In addition, participants completed items to assess their confidence in their regulatory abilities: "l am confident that I can be successful in controlling my food intake," "I am confident in my abilities to control how much I eat," "I am certain that will be able to regulate my food intake," "l am certain that will be able to meet my weight management goals," nd "l am certain that I will be able to regulate how much food I eat' (0 = . 96).
The results revealed that EASE was positively correlated with confidence (r = . 40, p < . 01 suggesting that low ASEs are less confident in their own abilities to control food intake than are high ASEs. Taken together, the pretest results suggest that while those low in ASE are particularly concerned with monitoring and regulating their food intake, they also exhibit low confidence in their ability to do so. We propose that because low ASEs chronically monitor and regulate their food intake, they may be more responsive o information indicating that an option possesses external control properties.
Given that our conceptualization suggests that low Eases are highly sensitive to external control properties, it stands to reason that not only will they be likely to overcomes in response to small packages but that additional information (I. E. , visibility of the product quantity, location of the caloric content, and communicated caloric content) that further highlights (downplays) the external control properties of the small package will augment (mitigate) the predicted effects.
In Study 2, we find that when the product annuity is visible (as opposed to not visible), low Eases consume even more when the package is small (vs.. Large). In Studies 3 and 4, we test the impact of caloric information as another external source of control. In Study 3, we manipulate the location of the caloric information on the package. We predict and find that when the information is on the front (rather than on the back or not present), it will make salient that the small package has a low caloric content, and thus, low Eases will consume the most.
In Study 4, we vary the degree to which the caloric content communicates external control properties and find that owe Eases eat the most when they learn that a small package contains 50 (compared with 1 50) calories. Finally, Study 5 provides evidence for the underlying process by examining the moderating role of cognitive load and by demonstrating the meditating role of package responsibility cognitions. Study 1 Following Our conceptual framework, we anticipate that consumers will eat more when a small package is present than when it is absent.
More important, we predict that low Eases are particularly sensitive to the external control properties that small packages offer and will be more likely to consume when small packages are resent than when they are absent: HI a: Low Eases will consume more when small packages are present (vs.. Absent). HI b: No differences in consumption will emerge among high Eases as a function of packaging. Method Participants and procedure. Seventy-six female undergraduate students participated in a 2 (small package status: present vs.. Absent) EASE between- subjects design. Participations with prior work on eating behaviors, in this study, we restricted our examination to women only (e. G. , McFarland et al. 201 0; Policy and Herman 1995; Semesters and Mandela 2006). 70 / Journal of Marketing, March 2012 supplicants completed the experiment individually and were seated in a cubicle facing away from a female experimenter. Each participant was told that we were interested in evaluations Of a variety of products and that they would be asked to sample one of the products while completing a questionnaire.