Cover: Danger in the Aisles?

Danger in the Aisles?

Safely Navigating the Grocery Store Can Be Harder Than It Sounds

Published May 23, 2014

by Deborah A. Cohen, Susan H. Babey

Danger in the Aisles?

Safely navigating the grocery store can be harder than it sounds

Have you ever come home with a grocery bag full of food that you didn’t mean to buy? That’s because you might have less control over your food choices than you think. How and where items are placed in grocery stores can influence your purchases and, therefore, your eating habits. Some argue that food design and placement are hidden risk factors for food-related chronic diseases and, as such, should be regulated for consumer protection. For now, though, shoppers are on their own. Here are six things to ask yourself as you navigate the aisles:

  • Long day at work?

    Shopping while tired  — or stressed — can make you more likely to choose foods high in sugar and fat.

  • Feeling a bit distracted?

    Being distracted can reduce your ability to resist buying foods—like sweets, soda, and chips — that you might later regret.

  • Reached the end of the aisle?

    Items placed in prominent end-of-aisle spots account for about 30 percent of all grocery store sales.

  • Armed with good intentions?

    Many food choices are made without full conscious awareness or deliberation. It’s easy to pick up items you know you should be trying to avoid.

  • Think you’re in control?

    People lack the capacity to fully control their eye gaze. Marketers use this to their advantage when crafting their displays.

  • Ready to check out?

    Brace yourself for impulse marketing. That checkout-lane candy bar "calling your name" has been artfully placed.

SOURCE: "Candy at the Cash Register: A Risk Factor for Obesity and Chronic Disease," New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 367, No. 15, October 11, 2012, pp. 1381–1383, Deborah A. Cohen, Susan H. Babey.

This report is part of the RAND infographic series. RAND infographics are design-focused, visual representations of data and information based on a published, peer-reviewed product or a body of published work.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit www.rand.org/pubs/permissions.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.