Organically-grown foods are a controversial topic. They do produce foods with less pesticides however there exists much debate as to whether or not they are nutritionally superior.

One thing about organics is clear, however - they are a marketers dream. Somehow being grown without the use of commercial pesticides has been interpreted by a disturbing amount of people as being less caloric.

That's right - according to this paper in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, Norbert Schwarz, professor of marketing at the U-M Ross School of Business found that Americans believe that organic foods contain fewer calories than do conventional foods. This is true despite both having the same calories labelled.

  • The researchers showed more than 100 subjects nutrition information for a regular Oreo cookie and for one that was made with organic flour and sugar.
  • The label clearly showed a serving size (two cookies) of 160 calories for both Oreos.
  • 38% of the participants thought that the organic cookie had fewer calories than non-organic brands.

Apparently eating organic can also negate the need for exercise according to some.

Schwarz's research team asked more than 200 study participants whether a female college student trying to lose weight could forgo her daily post-dinner, three-mile run if;

  • She ate an organic dessert
  • She ate a conventional non-organic dessert (in both cases, a small bowl of ice cream or a chocolate chip cookie)
  • She skipped the dessert altogether.

Given the results of the previous study, it should come as no surprise that participants were more favorable towards the organic desert and skipping the desert than eating the conventional desert.

What WAS surprising is that slightly more participants thought that eating the organic dessert would be more favorable than skipping the dessert. Wrap your head around that one.

If ever there were a study that underscores both the level of nutritional confusion and the power of food marketing - this would be it.