PhD defence: Food choices based on information, life circumstances and habits

Helene Normann Rønnow portrait

PhD defence

Helene Normann Rønnow

Title of thesis

Food choices based on information, life circumstances and habits

Go to Participation details


Food choices are complex and are inuenced by several internal and external factors. As our current food choices have long-term health consequences and the prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases is increasing worldwide, knowledge on inuencers of dietary choices is necessary. In this thesis, I examine a subset of factors inuencing food purchases and dietary quality: information in the form of nutritional food labels, life events in the form of retirement, and finally habit heterogeneity. I use Home Scan data supplemented with questionnaires and administrative data to investigate each factor.

Several countries have implemented mandatory or voluntary food labels to inform and guide consumers towards healthier food choices. Most recently, Front-of-Pack (FOP) labels have increased in popularity. Paper 1 investigates the effect of using FOP and Back-of-Pack (BOP) nutritional food labels on dietary quality and nutrient consumption. I find that the use of FOP labels results in a small increase in overall dietary quality, while the use of BOP tables does not affect dietary quality.

Eating healthy is important for health in the longer term, and as the population share of elderly is rising globally, health at old age has become an increasing concern. Paper 2 and Paper 3 investigate how retirement affects food purchase behaviour and the demand for dietary quality. Heterogeneous responses are examined in paper 2, while the potential dynamic adjustment is explored in paper 3. The findings show larger increases in food expenditures, dietary energy, dietary quality, and purchase efficiency for single households retiring from the labour market. There are indications of dynamic adjustment in food expenditures and overall dietary quality, while energy is only statically affected.

The reaction to life-changing events or dietary policies depends on the existing habits of the consumer. Paper 4 explores the heterogeneity of habits in food consumption behaviour. We apply a new definition of habitualness and construct a habit index based on this definition. Our results show that consumers are not very habitual according to the definition we apply, but there are signs of heterogeneity across product groups and households. We investigate general price sensitivity and tax responsiveness in the case of a sugary soft drink tax and a fat tax in Denmark and and that habitual consumers are generally less responsive to price changes but more responsive to tax increases.

The PhD thesis contributes to the extensive literature on food purchases and dietary quality. The findings shed light on a selection of inuencing factors and have implications for both policy and future research.


Associate Professor Sinne Smed, Department of Food and Resource Economics (IFRO), University of Copenhagen


Associate Professor Toke Reinhold Fosgaard, Department of Food and Resource Economics (IFRO), University of Copenhagen

Assessment Committee


Professor Jørgen Dejgård Jensen, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Professor Olivier Allais, Inrae, Universite Paris-Saclay

Associate Professor Chen Zhen , University of Georgia

Master of Ceremony

Associate Professor Sigrid Denver, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen


How to participate


HYBRID: Festauditoriet A1-01.01, Bülowsvej 17, 1870 Frederiksberg C and Zoom

The defence is open to all.

Sign up for a link and passcode for online hybrid zoom participation:

Please contact Helene Normann Rønnow 23 May - 22:00 (CET), at the latest.

Request a copy of the thesis:

If you are interested in a full copy of the thesis, please contact the PhD student or the PhD Secretary.