News Coverage and Sales of Products with Trans Fat

This article examines whether news coverage about trans fats influenced consumer purchasing behavior regarding foods containing trans fats. Starting in 2006, the Food and Drug Administration has required food products to display trans fat levels.

The authors conducted a cross-sectional time-series analysis to merge data on media coverage of the trans fat labeling requirement with sales information from a large grocery chain. Sales of seven products containing trans fats were tracked across almost 12,000 store-weeks.

Key Findings:

  • News coverage was linked to decreased sales of six of the seven products tracked in this study after the labeling requirement was implemented in January 2006.
  • The impact of news coverage on sales was short-lived, with strongest results in the week following news coverage.

Although news coverage of the trans fat labeling requirement influenced consumer behavior at the time of release, media coverage on its own is not sufficient to change consumer purchasing patterns in the long term.