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Does Food Marketing Need to Make us Fat?

How Food Marketers can Make “Win-Win” Adjustments to their Strategies to Help Consumers Eat Better while Staying Profitable

How Food Marketers can Make “Win-Win” Adjustments to their Strategies to Help Consumers Eat Better while Staying Profitable

Quantity discounts on fruits and vegetables can induce consumers to eat more healthily

Re-branding healthy foods on non-health related positive benefits may help increase consumption of healthy products

Small changes in eating environments can cause a significant decrease in the consumption of unhealthy foods

Two of the biggest influences on how much we eat are visibility and convenience, and we often continue to eat until an external cue tells us to stop

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Chandon, Pierre and Brian Wansink (2012). Does food marketing need to make us fat? A review and solutions. Nutrition Reviews, 70(10), 571-593. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00518.x

Have you ever seen a commercial that left your mouth watering for that juicy hamburger or crispy potato chips up on the screen? Food marketers are masters at getting people to crave and consume the foods that they promote. Often those advertisements are geared to respond to desires expressed by consumer for tastier, more convenient and less expensive foods. Unfortunately, much of the food that is advertised is high in fat and sugar. With the obesity epidemic at an all-time high, we need to look for marketing solutions that can have positive outcomes for both businesses and consumers. Looking for solutions that would work in today’s fast-pace culture we scoured a host of marketing studies and examined current marketing trends. We identified changes that food companies can implement to not only help consumers eat less, but to stay profitable. In our exploration we chose to focus on four key areas of marketing all of which have powerful effects on consumers and are easily manipulated by marketers.

Pricing is one of the strongest marketing factors that predict energy intake, obesity, and explains why obesity mainly plagues lower-income consumers. Within the last thirty years the price of food has drastically declined which in turn may cause people to eat more. If fast food prices were increased by a mere 10%, the obesity rate would decrease by 0.7%. People accelerate the consumption of products they believe were purchased at a lower price. We suggest applying this principle to healthier foods by offering quantity discounts or bonus packs. This can induce consumers to purchase more items such as fruits and vegetables, for example. For more price findings see Table 1.

Marketing communication enhances consumers’ expectations of taste, quality, and social value of a product. Today, 72% of television advertising for food promotes candy, cereal, and fast food. A study in Montreal proved that banning television advertising in children’s programming, reduced consumption of sugared cereal and trips to fast food restaurants. Solely, promoting healthy foods to consumers may not be effective though because of the stigma that they will taste worse. We propose re-branding healthy foods on non-health related positive benefits. For more marketing communications findings see Table 2.

The tastiness and package size of a food product can have an effect on satiety and how much a person ultimately consumes. Increasing the flavor complexity and number of components in a food improves its overall tastiness rating. Offering healthy foods that have more complexity, such as a fruit salad instead of a whole fruit, can increase consumption because of both variety and convenience. Larger package sizes can lead people to eat more. Reducing package sizes of less healthy foods by elongating the packages makes the size reduction less visible, which in turn can make choosing a smaller size more likely. Furthermore, restaurants can add a smaller size on the menu. Even if nobody chooses it, it will make other sizes look bigger and will lead people to choosing smaller sizes. For more product findings see Table 3.

The eating environment can promote mindless behavior that causes people to eat more food than they realize. The more visible and accessible a food is, the more of it will be consumed. Displaying healthy foods in highly visible areas will increase consumption. For example, fast food restaurants could more prominently display an attractive picture of a salad, and grocery stores might replace candy with fruit and healthy snacks at the register. This and previous research shows that small changes in the eating environment can cause a significant difference in the width of our waistlines For more eating environment findings see Table 4.

Food marketers can use these suggestions as a winning formula to make money while promoting healthier foods!

Summary by Brooke Pearson