Subscribe to the Health & The City Newsletter

Nudging You To Make Healthier Choices

Clever supermarket cues influence food purchases and are being used to nudge people towards making healthier choices while still meeting their grocery budget.


Think you’re completely in control when you visit the supermarket? Think again. Plenty of research has gone into finding out exactly what makes shoppers purchase more. Everything from the choice of music and lighting through to the layout, entrance location and product placement, have been researched to determine the best design to get you to stay in store longer and increase your spending. So, it’s not just a coincidence that soft drinks are located in the same aisle as the chips or that essentials like milk are located at the back of the store ensuring you are attempted by at least one aisle on your way in and out. While plenty of tactics have been used to sell processed foods, researchers from New Mexico State University in the US are beginning to study ways to get shoppers to buy more fresh produce and they’re having surprising results.

Grabbing a trolley on the way into the supermarket is usually a mundane affair. But if you entered an El Paso store with your trolley, you would have been met with a reflection of yourself. The US researchers hooked onto the trolley a perfectly positioned mirror that provides a gentle reminder that the food choices you make while in store are important for helping control your weight. The mirror is designed to give you a splash of reality while shopping, instead of having you mindlessly walk up and down each aisle as you throw food into your trolley.

What if you’re more inclined to grab a basket? There’s help for you too with researchers placing a strip of yellow duct tape down the middle of the baskets and providing an accompanying flyer encouraging you to place your fruit and vegetables in the front half of the basket. Surprisingly, the researchers found the average produce sales per customer jumped from $3.99 to $8.85. These little nudges that gently prodded shoppers to make healthier food choices didn’t stop there.

Unbeknownst to you, when you walk into a supermarket you will have an inclination to head to the right, but if you were in the El Paso store, large plastic mats bearing huge green arrows pointing left would have led you straight to the produce aisle, which is generally located at the front of a supermarket to the left. While in store you would then have passed signs telling you how much produce the average customer is buying and which fruit and vegetables are the biggest sellers – information that conveys social norms and influences you to purchase more. Sure you may purchase more of the healthier stuff, but according to the researchers you’re likely to still stick within your budget, as you’ll simply purchase less of the ‘bad’ stuff. While more research is needed, it’s nice to see researchers taking an innovative approach to gently poke people to make healthier food choices rather than using scare tactic or shaming them into it.

Have you seen any tricks promoting healthy food choices in your local supermarket?

Leave a reply