How Much Sugar is in My Drink? The Power of Visual Cues

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© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Despite widespread attempts to educate consumers about the dangers of sugar, as well as the advent of nutritional labeling, individuals still struggle to make educated decisions about the foods they eat, and/or to use the Nutrition Facts Panel. This study examined the effect of visual aids on judgments of sugar quantity in popular drinks, and choices. 261 volunteers at four different locations evaluated 11 common beverages. Key measures were estimates of sugar in the drinks, nutrition knowledge, and desire to consume them. In the experimental condition, participants viewed beverages along with test tubes filled with the total amount of sugar in each drink; the control condition had no sugar display. Both groups were encouraged to examine the Nutrition Facts Panel when making their evaluations. Correlational analyses revealed that consumers exposed to the visual aid overestimated sugar content and the length of time needed to exercise to burn off the calories; they also had lower intentions to consume any of the beverages. Individuals asserting to use the Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) in general were also less likely to admit using it in this particular study (r = −2, p = 0.001). This study suggests that a simple visual aid intervention affected judgments and choices towards curtailing sugar intake. This has implications for labeling format implementation.