Tip #5: Understand the food industry and break the cycle of poor nutrition
The previous tip briefly touched on the food industry and the tricks it uses to convince you that buying that sugary yoghurt is a healthy choice. As a marketer, having studied those techniques in-depth during my bachelors and masters studies in marketing at university, it is somewhat concerning to see that only in 2020 people are slowly awakening to the reality of nutrition. No, bread, sugar and cookie dough is not healthy for you; and no, your local supermarket does not prioritise your best health interests.
By understanding the core processes and principles of the modern supermarket chain, you may equip yourself with the right knowledge to avoid being directly affected by them.
The objective of a supermarket is to sell as many products as possible, focusing both on the quantity and variety sold. The merchandising department of your local supermarket decides which products are introduced across the board, and their only motives are sales and corporate relationship management. If a small, independent healthy snack factory owner approaches a merchandiser, their product will not be accepted if a more popular, but less healthy snack brand needs their product placed in store.
So the less healthy snack will be taken in-store, and if it is a high-priority product (needs to be sold in high volume), it will be placed in what’s called the “red zone”. The red zone in a supermarket describes the shelf level which is at or directly below the eye level of the average person in any given geographical region. It guarantees that the product is placed in your primary field of view, where it can’t be ignored. Low-price point vegetables are likely to be placed at feet level - you’ll need to bow down and reach for them, while that crunchy brand of sugary treats will always be at an arm's reach.
The aisles in any given supermarket are designed to keep you in-store for as long as possible. At first, the designs were tested on rats and mice, and then data was collected from humans, through in-store CCTV surveillance and infrared heat mapping. Ever got lost or made more than 2 laps at a supermarket? That is how the whole supermarket system is meant to work. But once you get used to it, it stops working, and that is measured by a decrease in overall shop sales volume as well as variety - people are less likely to impulse buy if they know what they came for and where the products are placed in advance. So, you’ll notice that stores will switch the position of their products and shelves at least once per year - all to render your learned knowledge regarding product placement useless, keeping you in-store for a longer time.
Let’s not forget colours! Every store has its own set of signage solutions to signify that a product is on sale. Most frequently, these colours are red and yellow, and less often it’s green and blue. Red and yellow is set to inspire energy, enthusiasm and impulse buying decisions, while green and blue is there to reassure and calm you down. Naturally, brighter colours tend to be used with lower priced items, while more modern, calming colours are used for premium products. The psychology behind that is mainly based on what marketers call “target audience profile”, which categorises people based on their level of income, personality traits, habits and other characteristics which may be retrieved by market research. The ideal profile for a saver type store or product are decision makers from lower income families, with personality traits that are signified by a higher level of neuroticism and extraversion. On the other hand, the ideal profile for a premium type stores and services are independent individuals or family decision makers with an above average or high levels of income, with personality traits that are low in neuroticism.
Sometimes, you have to read between the lines when it comes to noticing the tricks that are there to attempt to make you buy the product. A logo or design that is displayed on the product on your local supermarket shelf will accentuate only the benefits and will leave everything else out, unless it is explicitly required of them to do otherwise by the government authorities. Most commonly, all of the nutritional information will be provided on a back label, while the front cover will attempt to interpret that data for you, and the interpretation will always be centered around the benefits and not the drawbacks of any given product, which is why it is our responsibility to educate ourselves on how to read the information with our critical thinking hat on!
So, now that we’re aware of all the various implications of shopping at your general supermarket store, it becomes a bit easier to impose some structure on your shopping habits. The red or yellow ‘sale’ signs now have lesser chance to make you impulsive; you’ll start noticing what is being sold at the ‘eye level’ and perhaps you’ll pay more attention to sticking to your shopping list!
A great way to avoid all the hassle of maintaining your efficiency while shopping at supermarkets is to have a look at independent online shops, just like ours! Notice that all of the information displayed all throughout our communications effort is designed to be minimal, void of any marketing fluff and meant to provide value every step of the way. One of our brand objectives is to simplify scientific information on nutrition and to provide it in digestible bits.
Have a look at our website and enjoy the limited sales offers available this summer!