Strategic use of just-below numbers in packaged-foods calorie information

Robert M. Schindler, Mathew S. Isaac, Rebecca Jen Hui Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent research has shown that health-motivated consumers perceive foods with calorie values just below a round 0-ending number (e.g., with 9 endings) as having relatively fewer calories and thus greater appeal. To the extent that brand managers are aware of this left-digit effect, we might expect to see more food items in the marketplace with just-below calorie values than other calorie values of similar magnitude (e.g., round values and just-above values). Using the on-package calorie values of a large sample of food items from a proprietary food and nutrition database, we find evidence for such strategic management of number endings, but only for healthy food items (i.e., not regular foods). For healthy food items, there are more just-below than round-number calorie values; however, for regular foods, this difference reverses. Further analyses indicate that the same pattern of results is present when just-below calorie values are compared with just-above values. These findings yield important implications for policymakers, manufacturers, and consumers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-250
Number of pages14
JournalMarketing Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


  • Consumer information policies
  • Left-digit effect
  • Numerical cognition
  • Nutritional labeling


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