EU Science Hub

Empirical testing of the impact on consumer choice resulting from differences in the composition of seemingly identical branded products

Abstract: 

Differences in the composition of seemingly identical branded food products (DC-SIP) has been a source of growing concern in the EU in recent years. This was particularly the case after tests conducted in several Member States (MS) confirmed the presence of differences in composition of some branded food products sold across different Member States. To provide further evidence on DC-SIP practices, in close collaboration with experts from Member States' competent authorities and stakeholders of the food chain, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) developed a harmonised methodology for the comparative testing of DC-SIP in food across MS. The result of the application of this methodology to different products found that 9% and 22% of evaluated food products had differences in composition but had identical or similar front packaging, respectively. While the JRC’s comparative testing found evidence on the scale of the DC-SIP issue across EU, there is still a lack of empirical evidence on consumer preferences for DC-SIP. This report aims to contribute to the existing studies by verifying whether the presence of DC-SIP influences consumer preferences and willingness to pay for a different version of the same branded product. The study applied two different methodologies, an (online) discrete choice experiment (DCE) and a sensory testing experiment ('lab experiment'), in six MS (i.e. Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Spain, and Sweden) with a total of 10,600 respondents.