Google Using Behavioral Science to Encourage a Plant-Based Shift in Eating Habits
For many people, the word vegan–or even plant-based–in front of a dish can lead to many assumptions and associations. For some, it may mean the dish in question is automatically a “health food,” which could make them assume it will be bland or essentially just a fancy salad.
Fast Company notes that Google is on a quest to “subtly nudges diners” at its employee restaurants “to make one choice in particular: eat less meat.” To do that, Google is utilizing data and behavioral science to promote a plant-based shift that simultaneously challenges preconceived notions of vegetarian and vegan food–such as the type listed above. From incorporating steps such as listing vegan burgers or broths as the first option on a menu, to researching “the barriers that prevent consumers from shifting away from meat-heavy diets,” it is all part of the Google’s attempt to reduce its carbon footprint as part of its overall sustainability plan.
After the company created an award-winning plant-based taco this year, Scott Giambastiani, Google’s global food program chef and operations manager, elaborated on how menu descriptions could deter people from ordering the dish:
“People have an expectation when they see the word ‘taco.’ When they look at that title, if it says vegan, I’m running for the hills. I love vegan, but I don’t want to see it on the menu. I want you to deliver an experience in what I’m about to eat and something that’s exciting. So it needs to look good, taste good, and it needs to sound good on the menu.”
While Google is still testing out menu descriptions to see “how different names influence selection of the taco,” some of the options in the initial taste tests included “mushroom taco,” “oyster mushroom taco,” “Korean spiced maitake taco,” and “spicy multi-nut maitake taco and quinoa tortilla.” The article points out research conducted by Stanford scholars in June (published in JAMA Internal Medicine) that indicates more indulgent or decadent-sounding descriptions “could lead to higher consumption of vegetables,” which can make “healthier foods more appealing and encourage people to make healthier dining choices.” An example would be labeling a dish of green beans and shallots as “sweet sizzlin’ green beans and crispy shallots.”
Google’s use of behavioral science so far has led to its employees being “71% more likely to eat healthier at work than outside of it,” with Giambastiani noting that the goal is “to think through how we can make a better choice easier for people.”
Regardless of what name the company uses to describe its vegan tacos, the article notes that come September, the recipe will be available on global research organization World Resources Institute’s website.
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