Each time I walk into my local supermarket I am always blown away with the flamboyancy that goes into food displays, the art of food sales is big business. Our local Woolworths looks like a little farmers shop, veggies and fruit displayed in wooden crates stacked into a beautiful pyramid of colours. Vegetables so perky makes you wonder if they are plastic.
All of this, like anything commercial, is designed a specific way to essentially make you buy more and for supermarkets to increase food sales. I say fair game, besides we need to eat more fruit and vegetables, but this also happens with other items we don’t want to eat like chips, chocolate, fried food, snacks, alcohol, soft drink, basically all the middle isles of the super market floor.
As a consumer you need to see through the colourful displays, your health depends on it. Selling food is both a lesson in psychology, as it is an art form.
Supermarkets have a big role to play in what families end up with in their shopping basket and ultimately the growing waistlines and health issue of the nation. However, supermarkets are also the first ones to get exempt from this health debate.
Consumers like to pass the health buck to individual choices, the government, their parents, medical institutions and basically everyone one else other that supermarkets. In my opinion, especially after reading a few research studies, supermarkets play an enormous role in consumer food choices. They also are the biggest players in influencing the food chain and food sales. Basically they control a portion of the farming and dairy industry, they have a lot of power.
How does your exposure to food influence what you eat?
In one study, researchers compared the availability of snack food including: chips, chocolate, confectioner and soft drink in supermarkets, across 8 different countries. Which included 170 different supermarkets stores across the globe.
They found that supermarkets devoted greater aisle length to chips, chocolate and confectionery in the UK. Whilst in Australia our largest aisles contained soft drink. They concluded that in all countries, the results showed high levels of snack and soft drink displays compared to any other food item. The exposure to discretionary food is largely unavoidable and the probability of shopper making impulsive purchases are greater due to sheer exposure of these food items.To answer the question, yes increasing exposure to junk food, may cause you to buy and eat more junk food.
“End-of-aisle displays appear to have a large impact on sales of alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages. Restricting the use of aisle ends for alcohol and other less healthy products might be a promising option to encourage healthier in-store purchases, without affecting availability or cost of products.”
How displays influence how much we buy and ultimately eat
Displays make people want and buy more. This makes supermarket displays critical in health promotion. Imagine if supermarket displays put healthy food on show at the end of every isle? This would create a conducive environment to make better food choices. After all, it wouldn’t affect a supermarkets bottom line; healthy food is often more expensive therefore higher profit margins for super market chains.
Defiantly something to think about and why hasn’t this been done before?
“The review finds that while sales promotions lead to significant sales increases over the short-term, this does not necessarily lead to changes in food-consumption patterns. Nevertheless, there is evidence from econometric modelling studies indicating that sales promotions can influence consumption patterns by influencing the purchasing choices of consumers and encouraging them to eat more.”
Is it a case of following the money?
In an economical sense using healthy food like fruit and vegetables as food displays instead of soft drink, chips and lollies, would actually be a better. Healthy food is generally more expensive and so therefore profit margins would be larger, if in fact supermarkets sold more.
The problem with following this logic, is that on a whole people don’t tend to impulse buy when purchasing fruit and vegetables. Sugar laden lollies, salty chips and fatty chocolate bars are much more appealing and play on your basic evolutionary instincts to search and like rich energy dense food. They are tantalizing for the taste buds. They are fun foods often associated with reward, feelings of pleasure and happiness.
Junk food can also be purchased in bulk, stored for a very long time and be sold at prices so cheap, sometimes even less than $1. It’s a purchase decision that doesn’t get much resistance or conscious thought.
In the situation where you’re standing in line at the check out and you see a Cherry Ripe on sale for only $1, it’s very tempting. It takes a lot of self-control and will power to ignore it. My guess is you probably wouldn’t feel the same temptation with an apple or stalk of celery.
How does consumer demand affect what’s on the shelves?
Despite what marketing campaigns tell us, supermarkets aren’t hubs of smiling staff who have our wellbeing and interests at heart. Supermarkets are big business, and so like any business they are there to make money. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
The reason why I highlight this is because as a business, you respond to consumer demand. There is no point filling shelves with products consumers aren’t buying, because you won’t make any money.
Supermarkets know this, stats on consumer purchases are recorded day in and day out. Inventory on stock is also tightly managed so they can order more of the food items that are selling best.
If something doesn’t sell, supermarkets won’t put it on the shelves. Consumers ultimately decide what are in supermarkets. You make the purchase decisions and supermarkets respond accordingly.
There have been many attempts in the past for healthy items to infiltrate super market shelves, but because they haven’t sold, the items became discontinued.
An example of this is cholesterol-lowering cheese that went to market 1 year ago, it’s no longer at Woolworths.
Another example is long life milk called Reduce by Devondale. It was a cholesterol lowering milk. You can’t get this anymore.
If you think these are one off examples, they aren’t. There are plenty more examples out there. The art of selling food becomes a reciprocal relationship. We all say we want healthier supermarkets, but our purchase decisions prove otherwise. We buy junk and processed foods in larger quantities, so supermarkets supply them in large quantities too, and at discounted prices so you by more. It’s just simple economics.
How can we get healthier products on shelves?
- Don’t buy junk food in the first place, this decreases demand, decreasing food sales.
- Purchase healthy alternatives, this increases demand for healthy food.
- Encourage others to do follow the above two points to influence food sales.
- Purchase brands that are ethical and follow a business model that shows it’s interested in the health and wellbeing of its customers.
- Complain to supermarkets by writing letters when you see unethical food displays, offer solutions.
Can you think of any other ideas, please write them in the comments below 🙂