Snooping the Supermarket

We talk a lot about our food environment and how what's right in front of us affects what we buy and then, of course, what we eat.  I usually zip through our local Chevy Chase Safeway to buy a few staples but thought on my last visit I'd move a bit more slowly. What was being marketed to me, and how?

Two pictures below say it all. Chips and soda! Front and center, and on sale. As I made my way around my eyes also scanned a display of flour, sugar and canned pumpkin, Halloween candy and then mostly more of the same (just smaller portions) at the checkout aisle.  For more on this, take a peek at CSPI's "Temptation at Checkout" report published this past August.

While this isn't surprising and likely reflects a combination of consumer demand and companies paying for prime space, it does make you wonder why other healthier foods even within a company's portfolio aren't touted nearly as much. Most soda companies make bottled water, at the very least.

Supermarkets could do so much more to nudge people into healthier choices. Studies upon studies reflect this and strategies are now in place even at food banks to encourage healthier eating.  Cornell's Food and Brand Lab has pioneered this research.  Seems to me retailers have a responsibility - as do food companies - in making healthy options more visible, available and attractive to consumers. 

And some are starting to get it.  Kroger has been AARP Foundation's retail partner in helping to incentivize SNAP participants to consume more fruits and vegetables, for example.  Other retailers have expressed significant interest in making it easier to cook with all forms of fruits and vegetables.  But there's a long way to go, and these conversations are only just beginning.

We'll talk more about food bank nudges tomorrow.