Special labels for foods that have genetic modification and are not organically processed have been the target of initiatives and legislative efforts recently. While a recent survey found that only 7 percent of people felt labeling GMOs was very important to them, that number climbed to 59 percent when they were reminded about genetically modified foods.

A new study adds to the nature of label marketing and also sheds left on the gluten-free trend. People are willing to pay more if a product is advertised as "free of" something negative than if it touts that it "contains" something positive. And when the something they are supposed to be worried about is explained - negatively-framed secondary information - they are even more inclined to buy it. A food labeled "free" of a food dye will compel some consumers to buy that product. But even more people will buy that product if that same label also includes information about the risks of ingesting such dyes, according to their analysis of 351 (non-college student) shoppers.

"What did surprise us was the effect of supplementary information," said Cornell humanities professor Harry M. Kaiser. "Even seemingly negative information was valued over just the label itself."

When provided more information about ingredients, consumers are more confident about their decisions and value the product more, Kaiser said.

Published earlier this month as "Consumer Response to 'Contains' and 'Free of' Labeling" in the journal, Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, the Cornell study might interest CEOs of food-processing companies, government policy makers and American consumers alike.

Jura Liaukonyte, Nadia A. Streletskaya, Harry M. Kaiser, and Bradley J. Rickard, 'Consumer Response to “Contains” and “Free of” Labeling: Evidence from Lab Experiments', Appl. Econ. Perspect. Pol. (2013) 35 (3): 476-507. doi: 10.1093/aepp/ppt015 Source: Cornell University