Do you ever wonder how you end up walking out of the supermarket with five things you didn�t need while forgetting the cat food or milk? You�re not alone, you can share this frustration with many others. This is because there has been so much thought and planning into the layout of a supermarket and placement of products to ensure the winners are the supermarkets and food manufacturers (that are in cahoots). Not so much your wallet or even your health.
So what tricks are the supermarkets up to?
In most cases, you are lured into a supermarket through the fresh fruit and vegetable section, and maybe even flowers. Take note, the lights are bright so it reflects off the plump red tomatoes, some stores even spray the produce with water so they all nice and dewy. Your senses are piqued, you set off on the right foot and the first items to hit your trolley are healthy- tick!
The aroma from the bakery or the kiosk with new fancy sausage sizzling away pulls you in further. And, it’s likely that out of guilt, you collect a packet of the sausages that you just sampled- into the trolley they go.
You are often encouraged to travel in an anticlockwise direction (easier for right-handed shoppers to put things into their trolley), and make your way to the farthest corner of the supermarket for staples like eggs and milk. On the way you might need to pick up some other pantry must-haves like olive oil and tea, these products are conveniently situated in the middle of the isles so you need to venture past other tempting items to get there. Oh, and did you notice the biscuits are within close proximity to the tea? Supermarkets would argue that product grouping is convenient for the shopper but this can often mean we collect unnecessary things along the way.
Some of the extra items that land in our trolley can be a result of lingering in the isles for longer than we intended. With tens of thousands of items on the shelves, we are bombarded with choice and information, or struggle to find a particular product. Research suggests that from around the 25 minute mark of being in a supermarket our rational shopping transitions to emotional and this is where marketing and promos are likely to pounce. �
Whether you�re �boomeranging� in and out of the isles to grab the essentials, or weaving each isle for a full restock, either way, you will be exposed the displays at the end of each aisle. Highlighted with a large red sign that screams bargain, these products are often seen and placed into the shopper�s trolley (and simply because most of us like a bargain). Brands can pay a premium to be placed in on the aisle caps or at the customer’s eye level, this tactic also extends to the children�s eye level. Items like bright cereal boxes or muesli bars with cartoons are more likely to fly off the shelves if the children can see it, reach it and pester mum about it.
Here are a few tips for beating the psychology of a supermarket:
- Write a list- and stick to it.
- Aim to fill at least two thirds of your trolley with fresh whole foods or minimally processed- fruit, veggies, dairy, quality protein, nuts, seeds, whole grain and whole grain products.
- Shop online- this way everything is at eye level.
- Shop less often- less opportunity to collect unnecessary items.
- Look above and below eye level- better prices and more selection.
- Don�t shop when hungry- less chance of impulse buying and sampling the fancy new sausages.
- When comparing nutrition information between similar products, always check the per 100g column.
- When comparing prices between similar products, always check the price per weight (e.g 100g).
- Allow yourself to include some treats in your shopping, just limit it to one or two items per shop- the less temptation you bring home, the better.
Remember the sneaky tricks and beat them, your wallet and health will thank you for it!
By Jennifer Peters,�ANutr
Public Health Nutritionist