How Fragile is the Credibility of a Quality Label? A Quasi-Natural Experiment Using the Example of Stiftung Warentest

In 2013, Stiftung Warentest tested hazelnut chocolate for their leading magazine, called Test. Stiftung Warentest is one of the most important consumer organizations in Germany. Ritter Sport is a high-quality producer of chocolate in Germany. Their hazelnut chocolate did not pass the test. It was given the grade of unsatisfactory. Stiftung Warentest accused Ritter Sport of labeling an artificial flavoring as a natural flavoring. Ritter Sport rejected the accusation. They went to court and won the trial. Using the Ritter Sport versus Stiftung Warentest case, we analyze whether negative headlines really undermine the credibility of a quality label by examining Stiftung Warentest and their Test label. In addition, we examine what can be done to restore or, more generally, increase the credibility of a quality label. Based on a quasi-natural experiment, we find that the negative headlines on Stiftung Warentest have undermined the credibility of the Test label. We also find that the credibility of the Test label can be restored by providing reference values to the tests, strengthening the independence of Stiftung Warentest, and using laboratory methods in the tests.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2020-10-28

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