Purpose – This study aims to examine the various effects of two licensing factors – health claims and “FoSHU seal”, which can be appeared on packages only with permission. In the Food for specified health uses (FoSHU) system, Japanese Government controls all health claims on packages of food products for the first time in the world. Design/methodology/approach – In Study 1, the authors investigate the signaling effects of the two licensing factors with a 2 (health claims: yes/no) × 2 (FoSHU seal: yes/no) factorial design. Then, in Study 2, the authors investigate the external effects on alternative brands with a 2 (package of the non-FoSHU brand: similar/dissimilar to the FoSHU brand) × 2 (presentation of the FoSHU brand: yes/no) design. Findings – The results show that food evaluations are affected by the FoSHU seal, indicating that, with the symbolic mark, FoSHU foods can be successfully differentiated from non-FoSHU foods. In contrast, food evaluations are not affected by health claims – health claims have external effects on evaluations of non-FoSHU products in the category if both FoSHU and non-FOSHU products have a similar package. Originality/value – Although there are many studies regarding the impacts of health claims on food evaluations, they have assumed only US regulatory system and, therefore, have not examined the effects of licensing marks. Also, because Japanese approval system is dissimilar to US regulatory system, the effects of health claims in Japan are different from those in the USA. By analyzing various effects of Japanese system on consumer evaluation of food healthiness, this study contributes to a better understanding of the impacts of the public policy and food marketing on consumer behavior.
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