The Science of Shopping: Avoid Marketing Tricks to Make Healthy Choices
The packaged food market in the U.S. is worth hundreds of billions of dollars – a lucrative opportunity for food manufacturers. Which is why companies pour millions of dollars into understanding consumer habits. Market research firms are tracking your spending and customer behavior. And this has been happening for decades – Malcolm Gladwell detailed the push and pull between shoppers and sellers in a 1996 article in the New Yorker titled “The Science of Shopping.”
More than ever, consumers are conscious about the food that they’re purchasing and how it was produced. But even in this environment, food product marketing can still trick and deceive us.
Here are some common marketing tricks to be aware of as you shop.
Location: There’s a reason you have to walk through an entire store to get everything you came in to buy. Product placement in a store is an entire science. Often, in a grocery store the ends of the aisle are seen as the most profitable area – and manufacturers sometimes pay extra to have their products placed there.
Also, in grocery stores, the products with the biggest markup – and the highest profit margin for the store – will likely be found right at eye level.
Characters: Food products marketed to children – cereal, macaroni, yogurt, fruit snacks, crackers and more – will likely have a familiar character from a popular TV show or movie. Mascots for cereal also are drawn to appeal to children.
Packaging: Different colors on packaging and labels can be used to evoke certain feelings and influence your decision-making. A sleek, black design can make a product seem elegant and sophisticated, while blue encourages a sense of responsibility. White can be used to make a product feel more low-calorie and purer, while gold can be used to evoke feelings of hunger and suggest higher quality.
Buzzwords: Adding trendy language to a package can make consumers more likely to choose the product. Words like “sustainable,” “all-natural,” “pasture-raised,” “made with real fruit,” “no high fructose corn syrup,” “multigrain” and more can be used to influence consumers’ decisions – yet often, the products might not necessarily be healthier for you.
“All-natural” isn’t a term regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and “pasture-raised” products don’t require third-party verification or inspection.
Nutrition Labels: About 78% of shoppers recently surveyed said they are interested in reading nutrition labels, paying more for organic products or looking for locally sourced products. But understanding the nutrition labels are difficult. When shopping, nutrition labels can be helpful – but the best way to compare food products is to look at the ingredients list to see what’s actually inside.
Whether we’re shopping for food, clothes, holiday gifts or something bigger – like a new refrigerator – finding a discount always makes the deal that much sweeter.
For most Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members with fully insured commercial PPO coverage, shopping for health care savings will also pay off with rewards. Eligible members are able to earn e-gift cards by choosing cost-effective providers for select non-emergency procedures with the Blue Cross Rewards program.
The Blue Cross Rewards program is designed to help members save, earn incentives and maintain their health. Savings like this also benefit the bottom line when your employees choose cost-effective providers. This in turn drives down claim costs for business owners and overall industry health care costs.
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- Blue Cross, Michigan Medicine Expand Hospital Care at Home Program
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