The influence of bundling and caloric knowledge on calories ordered and purchase intent.
In spite of public health efforts, the proportion of Americans who are overweight is at unprecedented levels, with an estimated 69% of adults in the United States classified as overweight and more than one third classified as obese (Ogden et al. 2014). A primary contributing factor to these troubling statistics may be increased consumption of food away from home, which has risen in parallel with obesity levels (e.g., Cohen and Story 2014; Nguyen and Powell 2014). Food consumed outside of the home tends to be served in larger portions, promoting overconsumption (Roberto et al. 2010). Fast food in particular has been identified as a culprit in increased caloric intake, with portion sizes two to five times larger than when first introduced (Young and Nestle 2002) and with most consumers unaware of the high levels of calories found in many menu items (Burton et al. 2006).
The negative health consequences of obesity and overconsumption have led to calls for increased regulation of fast-food industry tactics (e.g., Hutson 2014; Keilend 2014). This has left researchers and policymakers scrambling to understand how marketing actions such as promotional cues and point of purchase material impact consumers' perceptions of appropriate portion sizes and their likelihood of engaging in healthy eating. Recent research focuses on how the properties and/or placement of stimuli within a consumer's environment affect healthy choice behaviors (Hollands et al. 2013; Wansink 2004). As suggested by Roberto, Pomeranz, and Fisher (2014), environmental cues at the point of service and during consumption establish benchmarks regarding the appropriate amount of food to consume, "nudging" diners toward healthy or unhealthy choices. Several recent studies have examined how these types of cues affect estimates of portion size (e.g., McFerran et al. 2013; Wansink and Chandon 2006) and caloric intake (e.g., Chandon and Wansink 2007a, 2007b; Chernev and Gal 2010), particularly in the context of fast food.
One relatively unexplored environmental cue that is frequently employed in the fast-food industry is the promotional tactic of bundling--a common marketing practice in which two or more separate products or services are offered together for a single purchase price (Stremersch and Tellis 2002). While bundling has been extensively explored in the areas of consumer packaged goods (for a thorough review, see Chiambaretto and Dumez (2012)), its implementation as a promotional tactic in the food industry has garnered much less attention (for exceptions, see Chandon and Wansink (2007b) and Sharpe and Staelin (2010)). Understanding the influence of bundling on consumption choices is even more critical now that new regulations require restaurants and other retail food establishments with 20 or more locations to "clearly and conspicuously" display calorie information on menus by December I. 2016 (Tavernise 2015). These rules apply to combination (combo) or bundle meals with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requiring that the total calories for all food items that are included in the meal be shown, although the format of calorie declarations can vary depending on the number of options (Food and Drug Administration 2015).
This article adds to the growing body of literature on how environmental cues can influence food selection by examining the impact that bundling has on consumers' evaluations of food choices by specifically focusing on how a bundle promotion impacts consumers' purchase intentions and the amount of calories ordered. Previous research demonstrates the link between the purchase of fast-food bundles and calorie consumption (Sharpe and Staelin 2010) and that bundling may influence perceptions of the appropriate amount of food to consume (Wansink and van Ittersum 2007), suggesting that bundling may lead consumers to assume that the food contained in a bundle is an appropriate portion and, therefore, a healthy or acceptable amount of calories to consume.
This research examines if the promotional tactic of bundling is capable of influencing consumers' perceptions of appropriate portion sizes and intended calorie intake. Thus, the study presented in this article examines how a bundle promotion impacts purchase intentions and caloric selection through the underlying mechanism of consumption norms. Moreover, this research explores the moderating role that caloric knowledge has on both the relationship between bundling and purchase intentions and the relationship between bundling and the amount of calories ordered. Further, the realism of the study is enhanced through the use of menu boards that display caloric information in accordance with the FDA's guidelines. This article concludes with a discussion of the results and the implications that these findings have for policymakers.
THE FOOD ENVIRONMENT
Research on norm theory suggests that consumers use cues in their environment to determine appropriate behavioral responses (Cialdini, Reno, and Kallgren 1990). The use of these cues also extends to decision making regarding eating behaviors. Specifically, in the context of food consumption, environmental cues are external indicators frequently used by consumers to determine what and how much food to consume. Wansink (2004) distinguishes between cues in the eating environment, which consists of the ambient and social factors associated with eating, and the food environment, which consists of the size, label, salience, or other ways that food is presented. A growing body of academic and policy research has examined how aspects of the food environment can "nudge" consumers toward or away from perceptions and behaviors associated with healthier eating. Increased consumption of (nondiet) food has been shown to result from larger packaging (Scott et al. 2008), larger plate size (van Ittersum and Wansink 2012; Wansink and van Ittersum 2013), and short, wide glasses (Wansink and van Ittersum 2003). Perceptions of appropriate portion sizes and caloric intake may also be impacted by the labeling on food packages (Kees, Royne, and Cho 2014; Wansink and Chandon 2006) and perceptions of price, quality, preparation style, and healthiness of food (Shimizu, Payne, and Wansink 2010).
In addition to impacting portion sizes and caloric intake, cues in the food environment can also directly influence which foods individuals elect to consume. For example, Koenigstorfer, Groeppel-KIein, and Kamm (2014) found that package labels implying healthiness can serve as a cue that impacts consumers' food choices. Studies that focus on the salience of food items, such as prominent positioning in a cafeteria (Hanks et al. 2012) or promotions that feature a healthy or unhealthy sandwich (Downs, Loewenstein, and Wisdom 2009), found an increase in the likelihood of purchase of those items. As the literature demonstrates, consumers regularly use environmental cues when making decisions on what food items to purchase and these cues may impact the portion sizes or amount of calories perceived as appropriate (see Hollands et al. (2013) and Wansink (2004) for comprehensive reviews).
BUNDLING AS AN ENVIRONMENTAL CUE
One environmental cue that is ubiquitous in the food industry is that of bundling--the promotional tool of offering two or more products in a package for a single price (Stremersch and Tellis 2002). From the perspective of the consumer, the purchase of a bundle may provide a variety of benefits, in addition to any monetary discount that may be offered. It has been suggested that bundles might be preferred to individual items because bundling reduces search effort (Guiltinan 1987; Harris and Blair 2006), increases value added by providing greater ease of purchase (Sharpe and Staelin 2010), and/or reduces the risk of incompatibility among the items (Wilson, Weiss, and John 1990).
An additional role played by bundling is that it may serve as an environmental cue, suggesting to consumers what and how much to order. Drumwright (1992) found that bundling can entice consumers to include options in a package that they would otherwise leave out, suggesting that showing consumers a bundled option can encourage individuals to consume more. Just as plate size (van Ittersum and Wansink 2012; Wansink and van Ittersum 2013), size of food packaging (Scott et al. 2008), nutrition labels (Antonuk and Block 2006), and priming (Downs, Loewenstein, and Wisdom 2009) are used by consumers to determine what and how much food they should eat, bundles too may act as an environmental cue that suggests the amount of food in a bundle is a correct portion size and an appropriate food choice.
Thus, if a bundle acts as an environmental cue that influences consumers to purchase more and implies that the amount of food in a bundle is a correct portion size, promoting a bundle option should result in higher purchase intentions toward a bundle and increased consumption amounts. This leads to the following hypotheses:
H1a: Consumers will have higher purchase intentions toward a bundle when they are presented with a bundle option as opposed to no bundle option.
H1b: Consumers will order more calories when they are presented with a bundle option as opposed to no bundle option.
FOOD CONSUMPTION NORMS
The effectiveness of environmental cues on influencing food consumption may be because such cues "signal the prevailing norm with respect to food intake or food choice" (Prinsen, de Ridder, and de Vet 2013, 1). Norms are shared expectations among individuals within a society as to what behaviors are appropriate in a given situation (Elster 1989). Consumers also develop food-related norms which influence what they eat, the amount, and perceptions of healthiness. Specifically, Wansink and van Ittersum (2007) define the term consumption norms as an individual's perceptions of the appropriate amount of food to consume. Consumption norms may mediate the effect of cues in the food environment on caloric intake by suggesting a range or quantity that is acceptable to consume and providing a normative benchmark for consumption that may even occur outside of the consumer's conscious awareness (Wansink 2004; Wansink and Sobal 2007).
As with other cues in the food environment, offering multiple items in a bundled combo meal may impact consumers' perceptions of consumption norms. By presenting the diner with the suggestion to bundle, the marketer may be influencing perceptions about the normal and/or appropriate amount of food in a meal. Accordingly, we propose that the presence of a bundle promotion (environmental cue) impacts consumers' perceptions that a bundle/larger portion is an appropriate amount of food to consume (consumption norm) leading to higher purchase intentions toward a bundle and an increase in the amount of calories ordered. Formally:
H2a: The impact of the presence of a bundle on purchase intentions will be meditated by consumers' perceptions of consumption norms.
H2b: The impact of the presence of a bundle on the amount of calories ordered will be meditated by consumers' perceptions of consumption norms.
MODERATING ROLE OF CALORIC KNOWLEDGE
Recent research suggests that consumers' general knowledge as well as knowledge regarding issues such as health and food may impact their decision making in regards to healthy food choices. Consumers' numerical knowledge (Tangari, Burton, and Davis 2014), trans fat knowledge (Howlett, Burton, and Kozup 2008), and nutrition knowledge (Andrews, Burton, and Netemeyer 2000) have been found to impact consumers' perceptions of healthiness of food items. Nutrition knowledge was also found to impact consumers' abilities to easily interpret the healthiness of a product (Kees, Royne, and Cho 2014) while obesity consequences knowledge was found to impact purchase intentions (Andrews, Netemeyer, and Burton 2009). Further, high levels of health knowledge, operationalized as education and nutrition interest, lead to significant decreases in the amount of sugar, carbohydrates, fat, sodium, and calories consumed (Ma, Ailawadi, and Grewal 2013).
As evidenced by the review above, various types of health knowledge assessments have been employed in the literature, all of which demonstrate the impact that higher levels of knowledge have on increasing healthy decision making. One additional measure that is particularly relevant to this study is that of caloric knowledge. Caloric knowledge is defined as "objective calorie/fat knowledge with a focus primarily on caloric content" (Andrews, Netemeyer, and Burton 2009, 43). Andrews and colleagues (2009) show that high levels of caloric knowledge lead to lower intentions to purchase a high-calorie snack food. This suggests that while consumers who view a bundle should be more likely to order meals with higher calorie content and have higher purchase intentions toward a bundle, this effect is likely to be reduced for those consumers who have high caloric knowledge. Accordingly, this suggests:
H3a: The influence of a bundle on purchase intentions will be moderated by caloric knowledge, such that consumers with high caloric knowledge will not be influenced by the presence of a bundle.
H3b: The influence of a bundle on the amount of calories ordered will be moderated by caloric knowledge, such that consumers with high caloric knowledge will not be influenced by the presence of a bundle.
An experimental study with a pretest was conducted to test the hypotheses that bundling impacts purchase intentions and caloric intake (H1a and H1b), and that this effect is mediated by consumption norms (H2a and H2b), and further moderated by caloric knowledge (H3a and H3b). Participants in both the pretest and study were shown a menu board for a fictitious restaurant that was designed to appear similar to a menu that would be shown at a fast-food drive-through (see Appendix 1). The menu board contained food items, prices, and calories for each menu item. Calorie information, while not yet standard on all fast-food menus, was included because US health care reform legislation signed into law in 2010 will require it (Berman 2014). Specifically, the FDA mandates that the total calories for all food items that comprise a bundle should be displayed as of December 2016, although the format of calorie declarations can vary depending on the number of options. If there are three or more options in the meal, calories should be shown as a range, while if there are two options available, the calories of both options should be shown, separated by a forward slash (Food and Drug Administration 2015). Further, the use of mock menu boards and the display of calorie information are consistent with past research designs that explore consumers' food choices (Tangari et al. 2010). The calorie information displayed on the menu board was determined by averaging the calories for each of the menu item options as reported for those same or very similar items on the websites for Wendy's, McDonald's, and Burger King.
For both the pretest and study, presence or absence of a bundle promotion was manipulated and perceptions of consumption norms were measured. For the study, caloric knowledge was also measured. All data were collected using online surveys developed through Qualtrics and accessed via Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk) database. MTurk has been growing in popularity and investigation into this resource suggests that MTurk participants provide reliable results (Goodman, Cryder, and Cheema 2013).
A pretest was conducted to ensure that the placement of the bundle information on the menu board was correctly observed by participants and that it served as an environmental cue. After consenting to participate in the study, 81 participants (57% male, average age 35) viewed the menu board previously described. Depending on the experimental condition, the menu either did (bundle condition) or did not (no bundle condition) include a bundled meal option. For the bundle condition, only one bundle meal option was displayed with a bundle consisting of a double bacon cheeseburger, medium fries, and a medium drink.
After viewing the menu board, participants were provided with the definition of a bundle and then asked if they recalled viewing the promotion of a bundle option. Participants were able to select the options "yes," "no," or "unsure." Participants were also asked to complete the consumption norms measure. Consumption norms were assessed using three items which were adapted from measures used by Olsen and Grunert (2010) and Staunton et al. (2014). Using a one to seven scale (1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree), participants were asked to respond to the following statements: "Most people would order a combo meal consisting of a double bacon cheeseburger, medium sized fries, and a medium soda," "In your opinion, do you think that a combo meal consisting of a double bacon cheeseburger, medium sized fries and a medium soda is the expected item to purchase?," and "Ordering a combo meal consisting of a double bacon cheeseburger, medium sized fries, and a medium soda is a normal amount of food purchase."
A crosstab analysis revealed that 81% of participants who were placed in the no bundle condition indicated that they did not view information regarding a bundle option on their menu board. The remaining 19% (eight participants) were unable to recall if their menu board contained a bundle. For those individuals placed in the bundle condition, 86% indicated that they did view a bundle, while 7% (three participants) indicated that they did not and 7% (three participants) indicated that they were unsure. These results suggest that for the majority of the participants the bundle manipulation was successful. To test the effectiveness of a bundle to serve as an environmental cue, the items measuring consumption norms were first averaged to create a composite score ([alpha] = .73). A i-test was then conducted with the bundle condition as the independent variable and consumption norms as the dependent variable. Significant differences occurred between participants who viewed a bundle vs. those that did not (f = -2.12 (81), p < .05), with participants who viewed a bundle more likely to perceive bundles as a consumption norm (mean = 5. 10, SD= 1.07) than those who did not view a bundle (mean = 4.56, SD = 1.12).
Using Amazon's MTurk database, 192 participants were recruited. One participant did not answer the question for the dependent measure, resulting in a sample size of 191. To ensure that there was no potential bias from individuals who may have also completed the pretest, participants were asked if they had "completed a similar survey within the past two weeks," of which 93% selected "no," while 7% (13 participants) did not answer or indicated that they were unsure. Exclusion of these 13 participants did not impact the analysis; therefore, they remained in the dataset. The average age was 35, with participants ranging in age from 18 to 73, and 52% of the participants were male. Fifty-two percent of participants reported eating fast-food hamburgers rarely, 38% occasionally, and 9% frequently.
After opening the survey link and consenting to participate in the survey, participants were asked to assume that they had gone to a fast-food restaurant for lunch that day and were asked to look at the menu board. As in the pretest, participants were randomly assigned to view the menu that either did or did not include a bundled promotion: bundle condition (n = 97), no bundle condition (n = 94).
After viewing the stimulus material, participants were first asked to indicate which items they would be most likely to order from the menu under the assumption that they were dining there for lunch. They were not given constraints in terms of price or quantity and were told to make their orders as realistic as possible. Participants were asked to specifically state sizes, flavors, and any other variations in their orders, such as diet vs. regular soda, in order to aid the researchers with accurate caloric estimation. Consistent with research conducted by Parker and Lehmann (2014), the information they provided for their order was used to create the dependent variable, calories ordered. An independent coder, blind to the conditions, was provided with the orders placed by the participants and the calorie information for each item on the menu. The coder then summed together the total calories for each participant's order. This information was used as the dependent variable, calories ordered. Participants then completed the second dependent variable, purchase intentions, by responding to the question "I would definitely consider ordering a combo meal containing a double bacon cheeseburger, medium fries, and a medium drink." This item was measured on a one to seven scale with endpoints strongly disagree (1) and strongly agree (7).
Participants also completed the measured independent variables, consumption norms and caloric knowledge. Consumption norms were measured using the same three items from the pretest. Caloric knowledge was measured using four items created by Andrews, Netemeyer, and Burton (2009). Participants were provided with four multiple choice questions: "For a 100-gram serving of the following foods, which one food would contain the least calories?" "For the majority of American consumers, how many calories a day are recommended in a daily diet to maintain a healthy weight?" "Saturated fats are usually found in: --." and "Which kind of fat is higher in calories?" Participants were also provided with a manipulation check that provided them with the definition of a bundle and then asked if they recalled viewing a bundle advertised on the menu board. Participants were able to select the options "yes," "no," or "unsure." Finally, respondents were asked to report the frequency with which they ate fast-food hamburgers (1 = never, 7 = very often), their age, and gender.
Prior to analyzing the data, the bundle condition was dummy coded: 0 = no bundle, 1 = bundle. The items measuring consumption norms were averaged to create a composite score ([alpha] = .65). The caloric information questions were recoded to indicate whether the participants had either correctly (1) or incorrectly (0) answered the questions. The recoded items were then added together to create the caloric knowledge measure with responses ranging from zero to four, with zero indicating that all questions had been answered incorrectly and four indicating that all questions had been answered correctly.
As anticipated, a t-test revealed no significant differences between condition for caloric knowledge (t (189) = .245, p = .81; no bundle: mean = 2.23, SD = 1.09; bundle: mean = 2.20, SD = 1.06). In line with the hypothesized effects of mediation, a t-test showed significant differences between condition for consumption norms (t (190) = -.204, p < .05), with consumers in the no bundle condition having significantly lower perceptions of consumption norms (mean = 4.45, SD= 1.24) than those in the bundle condition (mean = 4.79, SD = 1.10). Further, consistent with expectations. a correlation analysis between the dependent variables revealed a significant correlation (r = .49, p < .01). Finally, a manipulation check was also conducted and the crosstab revealed that 86% of participants in the no bundle condition indicated that their menu board did not contain a bundle, while 91% of participants in the bundle condition recalled seeing information regarding the bundle ([chi square] (152.30, df 2, p < .01 ).
To test for both mediation and moderation, data were analyzed using Hayes (2013) Process macro, model 5, in SPSS 21.0 with 10.000 bootstrapping resamples for the dependent variables, purchase intentions and calories ordered. Data were also analyzed using the item that measured frequency of fast-food hamburger consumption as a covariate; however, this did not impact the results. Therefore, data reported below are without the inclusion of this covariate.
Recall that H la concerned the direct effect of a bundle promotion on purchase intentions for the bundle, H2a concerned the mediating effect of consumption norms, and H3a concerned the moderating effect of caloric knowledge. Accordingly, purchase intentions were regressed on the bundle condition, caloric knowledge, the interaction between caloric knowledge and bundle condition, and consumption norms, resulting in a significant model ([R.sup.2] = .23, F(4. 186) = 13.61, p < .001) (see Figure 1. Panel A).
To test H1a, the effect of the bundle condition on purchase intentions was first examined, resulting in a significant impact of bundle condition on purchase intentions (b=1.37, /j = .05). Specifically, consumers who viewed the bundle had higher purchase intentions than consumers who did not view the bundle. To test H2a, the mediating effect of consumption norms on the relationship between the bundle condition and purchase intentions was examined. As hypothesized, a test of the indirect effect with a 95% bias-corrected bootstrapped confidence interval that excluded zero suggests that consumption norms mediates this relationship (b = .24, LLCI = .0181, ULCI = .5488). Specifically, the bundle condition has a significant effect on consumption norms (b = .34, p < .05) and consumption norms has a significant impact on purchase intentions (b = .71, p < .001), suggesting that bundling results in greater perceptions of consumption norms; thus, resulting in more positive purchase intentions. Consistent with the idea of full mediation, the direct effect of bundle on purchase intentions was no longer significant (b = 1.07,p = .11). Further examination of this model suggests that there is a significant interaction between caloric knowledge and the bundle condition on purchase intentions (b = -.55, p < .05), supporting H3a.
To accurately probe the interaction using the Process macro, model 1, the mediating variable consumption norms was included as a covariate, while the bundle condition, caloric knowledge, and their interaction were examined as the independent variables of interest. Analysis of the impact of caloric knowledge on purchase intentions suggests that this effect is only significant in the bundle condition (b = -.72, p < .01) as opposed to the no bundle condition (b = -.17, p = .37). Specifically, as caloric knowledge increases, purchase intentions decrease in the bundle condition. There is. however, no significant change in purchase intentions across levels of caloric knowledge in the no bundle condition. To explore the impact of the bundle at varying levels of caloric knowledge, the Johnson-Neyman technique was employed using Hayes (2013) Process macro, model 1, in SPSS 21.0. This technique is used to probe an interaction by "identifying regions in the range of the moderator variable where the effect of the focal predictor on the outcome is statistically significant and not significant" (Matthes et al. 2011, 93). The presence of a bundle had a significant influence on purchase intentions when caloric knowledge was very high (i.e., >3.60; b = -.91, p = .05). This suggests that when participants view a menu board containing a bundle option, their purchase intentions decrease when they have high caloric knowledge (see Figure 2). Additional understanding of this interaction can be gained by viewing the means and standard deviations of each condition which were obtained through a 2-way ANOVA, see Table 1. Finally, there was no significant direct effect of caloric knowledge on purchase intentions (b = -.17, p = .37).
Recall that H1b concerned the direct effect of a bundle promotion on total calories ordered, H2b concerned the mediating effect of consumption norms, and H3b concerned the moderating effect of caloric knowledge. For total calories ordered, the amount of calories that participants' ordered were regressed on the bundle condition, caloric knowledge, the interaction between caloric knowledge and bundle condition, and consumption norms, resulting in a significant model ([R.sup.2] = .20, F(4. 186)= 1 1.84, p < .001) (see Figure 1, Panel B).
The effect of bundle on calories ordered was significant (b = 273.88, P < .01) which is consistent with hypothesis lb. These results suggest that consumers who viewed a bundle ordered more calories than consumers who did not view a bundle. Next, a test of the indirect effect with a 95% bias-corrected bootstrapped confidence interval that excluded zero (b= 18.49, LLCI = 2.40, ULCI = 51.04) suggests that the effect of the bundle condition on the amount of calories ordered was mediated by consumption norms. Specifically, the bundle condition has a significant effect on consumption norms (b = .34, p < .05) and consumption norms has a significant impact on the number of calories ordered (b = 53.81, p < .001), suggesting that bundling results in greater perceptions of consumption norms; thus, resulting in additional calories ordered. The direct effect of the bundle condition on calories ordered remains significant when the mediator is included in the model (b = 251.29, p < .01), suggesting only partial mediation. As for moderation (H3b), there was a significant interaction between caloric knowledge and the bundle condition on the amount of calories ordered (b = -87.23, p < .01).
To understand the nature of the interaction further, the Johnson-Neyman technique was employed using Hayes (2013) Process macro, model 1, in SPSS 21.0. The mediating variable, consumption norms, was included as a covariate, while the bundle condition, caloric knowledge, and their interaction were examined as the independent variables of interest. Analysis of the impact of caloric knowledge on calories suggests that this effect is only significant in the bundle condition (b = -126.18, p < .01) as opposed to the no bundle condition (b = -38.995. p = .12). Specifically, as caloric knowledge increases, the amount of calories ordered decreases in the bundle condition. Examining the influence of the bundle at varying levels of caloric knowledge suggests that the presence of a bundle had a significant influence on the amount of calories ordered when caloric knowledge was moderate to low (i.e., [less than or equal to]2.00; b = 76.83, p = .05). This suggests that when participants view a menu board containing a bundle option, they order more calories when they have low or moderate caloric knowledge as opposed to high (see Figure 2 and Table 1), supporting H3a. Finally, there was no significant direct effect of caloric knowledge on the amount of calories ordered (b = -38.95, p = .12).
Consistent with H1a and H1b, the results reveal an effect of bundling on purchase intentions and amount of calories ordered. Moreover, consistent with Hypothesis 2, the results indicate that a bundle promotion impacts both purchase intentions and the amount of calories ordered through the mediating influence of consumption norms. Further, the bundle promotion impacts both purchase intentions and amount of calories ordered more strongly for consumers with low caloric knowledge.
The findings reported here indicate that the presence of a bundle serves as an environmental cue impacting the amount of calories ordered and purchase intentions, particularly for consumers with low caloric knowledge. Moreover, the results indicate that these effects work through the mechanism of consumption norms. In other words, by promoting the purchase of a combo meal, the marketer is suggesting that all of the items should be purchased together, which implies that the combo meal is the appropriate choice to make.
From a policy perspective, the results show that advertising and promoting food options in the form of a bundle can lead consumers to increase their caloric intake. Because of the prevalence of bundles, this information should be alarming for those individuals concerned with the rising rates of obesity in the United States. This research calls into question the efficacy of focusing on item size as a way to promote smart food purchases. Discontinuing "supersized" options (e.g., Carpenter 2004) or banning the sale of large sugary beverages (e.g., Grynbaum 2014) can remove the opportunity for consumers to purchase a particular item, but may do little to decrease overconsumption given the ubiquity of the combo meal. Rather, policymakers may want to focus efforts on encouraging smaller side options in combo meals (Sharpe and Staelin 2010) or by introducing healthier bundles as regular options rather than promoting these options as health food (Royne and Levy 2008).
These findings also have important implications for the educational efforts in regard to nutrition. The nutrition labeling provision of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 required calorie information to be displayed on menus. This provision, the implementation of which has been delayed twice (Tavernise 2015), was passed under the assumption that knowledge about calories would lead consumers to make more educated choices. However, the findings from this study suggest that the presentation of calorie information may not be enough to offset other environmental cues that influence consumers' decision making.
Finally, it is important that consumers are educated about healthy decision making and appropriate caloric intake to combat the influence of bundles. On a positive note, both the importance of consumption norms as a driver that impacts calories ordered and purchase intentions, as well as the moderating role that caloric knowledge has, provide hope that educational efforts aimed at teaching consumers about appropriate food choices can be effective. While consumers who have low caloric knowledge are most likely to be affected by the promotion of a bundle, increased educational efforts can help to reverse this effect. Therefore, policymakers should incorporate the use of public service announcements and other advertising strategies to continue to educate the public about healthy food choice.
Although there is an increasing amount of research related to the effects of environmental cues on healthy behaviors, little research has examined the mechanisms underlying those effects (Wansink 2004). This study is among the first to demonstrate the mediating effect of consumption norms. Moreover, it is the first to our knowledge to show that bundling can influence consumption norms.
Limitations and Future Research
One limitation of the study is providing participants with only one bundle meal option--the double bacon cheeseburger, medium fries, and a medium drink. The items contained in this option or even the size of this option may not have been appealing to all of the consumers, creating the possibility that these results may vary if consumers were provided with more bundle options. Arguably, the presence of more bundled options would increase the strength of the consumption norm. Future research should assess these possibilities by implementing a menu board that displays multiple bundle options or by creating a condition where participants view different bundle options. Likewise, increased variance in the menu offerings in terms of the variety of options as well as food items with large caloric ranges should also be considered in future research.
Another limitation of this study is that it was scenario based and involved a fictitious brand. While the use of menu items in an online context is consistent with past research (Tangari et al. 2010), using a real brand and conducting the experiment in an actual restaurant would aid in the generalizability of the results and should be considered for future research. In addition, the price for a bundle meal in our study was $.58 cheaper than if the items were purchased piecemeal. While the vast majority of bundled meals are offered at a price lower than the total price of the individual components (Estelami 1999; Fast Food Menu Prices 2015), it should be noted that there is a possibility that the savings may have induced the purchase of a bundle. To eliminate any doubts that the results were due to the presence of a bundle and not the savings, future research should consider pricing the bundle option with no discount.
Previous research indicates that consumers are more likely to consume more when they are served more (Cohen and Story 2014). Perceptually, larger portions give consumers "liberty to consume beyond the point where they might have stopped" with smaller portions (Wansink 2004). While the study reported here measured ordering behavior, it could be surmised that consumers who view a bundle, not only order more calories, but will actually consume more calories. Future research should address this assumption.
Future research should explore potential moderating effects of individual differences among consumers. For example, research on persuasion knowledge, which is consumers' understanding of the persuasive tactics used by marketers (Friestad and Wright 1994), is used to explain how consumers adaptively respond to persuasion attempts and may provide insight into consumers' perceptions of bundles. Shiv, Edell, and Payne (1997) found that marketers' violations of perceived fairness can significantly impact consumers' brand selection. If consumers with high persuasion knowledge perceive bundling as an unfair marketing tactic, this could potentially result in reduced purchase intentions. On the other hand, greater susceptibility to interpersonal influence (Bearden, Netemeyer, and Teel 1989) might result in stronger consumption norms and increased consumption. If consumption norms about bundling are especially strong, consumers might be influenced to choose the items typically in a bundle even in situations where the marketer does not explicitly offer one. This suggests that, in some contexts, perceived consumption norms could vary across consumers and be examined as a potential moderator rather than a mediator.
APPENDIX 1 Fictitious Brand Menu--No Bundle BURGERS Hamburger 230 cal. $1.00 Cheeseburger 270 cal. $1.29 Bacon Cheeseburger 290 cal. $1.69 Double Cheeseburger 360 cal. $1.69 Double Bacon Cheeseburger 390 cal. $2.29 CHICKEN Chicken Nuggets (6pc) 280 cal. $2.29 Fried Chicken Sandwich 640 cal. $4.09 Grilled Chicken Sandwich 410 cal. $4.99 FRENCH FRIES Small 340 cal. $1.29 Medium 410 cal. $2.19 Large 500 cal. $2.49 DRINKS Non-Diet Soda Small 190-230 cal. $1.79 Medium 290-340 cal. $2.09 Large 380-450 cal. $2.39 Diet Soda 0 cal. Small $1.79 Med. S2.09 Large $2.39 Fictitious Brand Menu--Bundle BURGERS 230 cal. $1.00 Cheeseburger 270 cal. $1.29 Bacon Cheeseburger 290 cal. $1.69 Double Cheeseburger 360 cal. $1.69 Double Bacon Cheeseburger 390 cal. $2.29 CHICKEN Chicken Nuggets (6pc) 280 cal. $2.29 Fried Chicken Sandwich 640 cal. $4.09 Grilled Chicken Sandwich 410 cal. $4.99 FRENCH FRIES Small 340 cal. $1.29 Medium 410 cal. $2.19 Large 500 cal. $2.49 DRINKS Non-Diet Soda Small 190-230 cal. $1.79 Medium 290-340 cal. $2.09 Large 380-450 cal. $2.39 Diet Soda 0 cal. Small $1.79 Med. S2.09 Lg. $2.39 MAKE IT A MEAL! Double Bacon Cheeseburger, Medium Fries, Medium Soda $5.99 800-1140 cal.
Judy Harris (email@example.com) is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Marketing at Towson University. Department of Marketing. College of Business and Economics. Veronica L. Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Towson University, Department of Marketing. College of Business and Economics.
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Caption: FIGURE 1 Statistical Model for Dependent Variables: Purchase Intentions and Caloric Estimation
Caption: FIGURE 2 The Influence of Bundling and Carloric Knowledge on Purchase Intentions and Caloric Estimation
TABLE 1 Means (Standard Deviations) for Calories Ordered and Purchase Intentions by Condition and Caloric Knowledge No Bundle Condition Low Caloric Mean Caloric High Caloric Knowledge Knowledge Knowledge (n = 23) (n = 32) (n = 39) Calories 727.39 767.19 642.31 ordered (281.12) (261.34) (267.27) Purchase 4.13 4.47 3.59 intentions (2.34) (2.29) (2.14) Bundle Condition Low Caloric Mean Caloric High Caloric Knowledge Knowledge Knowledge (n = 25) (n = 34) (n = 38) Calories 990.00 802.64 635.26 ordered (210.48) (277.07) (295.46) Purchase 5.44 4.18 3.24 intentions (1.691 (2.20) (2.16) Low. mean, and high caloric knowledge conditions were created using a three-way split of the data. Low caloric knowledge consisted of caloric knowledge at levels 0 and 1 (n = 48), mean caloric knowledge consisted of caloric knowledge at level 2 (n = 66), and high caloric knowledge consisted of caloric-knowledge at levels 3 and 4 (n = 77).
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|Author:||Harris, Judy; Thomas, Veronica L.|
|Publication:||Journal of Consumer Affairs|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2017|
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