Who hasn't had the moment at the checkout counter when you feel a weird pang of discomfort? "Do I really even like or want this item?"
The food industry has a lot invested in bending us to their will, $33 billion spent on marketing to win our "stomach share." Yes, that's a real food industry term. Their methods become our consequences to bear. This can have real effects on our habits and health.
As we walk in the door we may be met with fresh flowers for sale, putting us in a good mood and making us more suggestible. Some places tempt us with boxes of pastries to get our mouth watering. (You got this! NO looking or touching! Inhale the delightful scent. Exhale gratitude to all baked goods and proceed! Remember that the fresh fruits and veg section has AMAZING smells there, too!)
Have you noticed most stores start you on the right and move you to the left, counterclockwise? Also by design. We spend about $2 more per trip when the store is set up this way.
In September, The Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report explaining how grocery store chains are paid thousands of dollars to have products placed strategically so we will see and buy them over others. End caps, middle of the isle, eye level or in clear view, not behind a freezer frame or hinge, for example. It is said big chains make more on these incentives than on actual food sales.
Money paid by food companies for fees and marketing research isn't spent on quality ingredients to fuel our bodies or support our health. Typically these savings are not passed on to us.
When buying cereal, take a moment and examine the isle. What do you think is at play to influence your decisions? Are sugar cereals lower at your child's eye level? Do you see bulk, money-saving options on the bottom shelves and less easy access? Are healthier options placed out of the way? Why? Because according to the research, those who want healthier options will seek them out.
What can we do to support our end of the tug-of-war?
• Have a plan and/or list.
• Go after dinner or have a snack before shopping.
• Days full of decisionmaking can wear down our willpower. Can shopping happen before work or first thing on a Saturday?
• Get excited about the food, a meal or snack you are planning to make or buy and how it will taste. Get your taste buds looking forward to something.
• Approach displays and end caps with caution.
Before you get in line for checking out:
• Step to the side and take two minutes to review your cart.
• Pick up the items that you may want to reconsider. Will it feed your health, your soul or just momentary "OOOH" for which, if you are honest, may have already passed?
• Maybe you don't even like the product all that much. Was it just cheap?
Your job as a shopper is to keep your focus on the shareholders. Your family members and yourself are YOUR shareholders, the ones you have to satisfy. Be assured that when the power executives from the big food companies do their grocery shopping, they do the same!
Take care of you!