There are a lot of tricks to make coffee taste better — adding cream, sugar or perhaps even some pumpkin spice. But a new study published in PLOS ONE, an online journal, revealed an even simpler tactic. Just call the coffee “eco-friendly.”
Researchers from the Sweden and the United States conducted three experiments to test both whether participants prefer the taste of so-called “eco-friendly” coffee and if they were willing to pay more for it. Participants were told to sample two cups of coffee. In two of the experiments, they were told that one was eco-friendly and the other one was not, though in reality, both coffees were exactly the same. In another experiment, the participants were told after sampling which coffee was supposedly eco-friendly.
The researchers found that “eco labels not only promote a willingness to pay more for the product but they also appear to enhance the perceptual experience of the product’s taste.” So not only will people pay more for a product based on one adjective, but people will also think that it tastes better, even if it doesn’t.
No matter if the participants were were explained to which cup was “eco-friendly” after drinking, there was still some willingness to pay for more for it, even if it had been the non-preferred selection based upon taste.
Is this proof which “greenwashing” works? If people are prepared to perceive an eco-friendly product as both tasting superior and worth an increasingly premium price, perhaps the conversation now would need to steer toward how to exactly define the term.