Ithaca, NY—Learning that a product is certified organic may leave many consumers feeling a bit conflicted. New research, conducted by researchers from Cornell University and University of Michigan and published in the journal Appetite, shows that some groups of consumers acknowledge the “good” that organics provide while simultaneously holding a bias against them when it comes to taste and other qualities.

The study revealed that while organics are generally perceived as more healthful than conventional foods, they are also often perceived as less tasty. Among consumers who have low levels of concern for the environment, this effect is even more pronounced. Another interesting finding occurred when participants were asked to pre-judge the effectiveness of a functional drink designed to alleviate malnourishment. Those high in environmental concern, who the researchers say will typically evaluate organic products more positively, still judged the drink to be less effective when they were told it was “organic.” This effect might be attributed to the idea in consumers’ minds that certain non-organic “additives” promote the effectiveness of such products.

The researchers describe both of these dynamics in contrast with the “halo effect,” embodied, for example, when a consumers misperceives “organic” to imply other positive attributes in a food like “low-calorie” or “low-fat.”

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, January 2013 (online 11/29/12)