A collection of articles in the October 2008 Journal of Consumer Research adds up to what we already suspected. Those wily processed food marketers know how to get us to buy and eat more. Consider:
- Consumers tend to avoid the largest and smallest drink sizes. Thus, if you want people to buy more soda pop, increase the size of the smallest and largest options, which is what retailers have done. Authors Kathryn M. Sharpe, Richard Staelin, and Joel Huber of Duke University suggest that fast food emporiums could help people reduce their intake if the sellers changed the size of their offerings.
- Chronic dieters eat more of foods when they’re packaged in 100-calorie packs, according to authors Maura L. Scott, Stephen M. Nowlis, Naomi Mandel, and Andrea C. Morales.
- Similarly, large packages seemed to deter people from digging in, according to a study by Rita Coelho do Vale, Rik Pieters, and Marcel Zeelenberg.
My solution: Don’t eat food that comes in packages (except nature’s). Without packaging to confuse us, we just might eat according to what our bellies perceive, rather than what our brains (or emotions) perceive. Of course, these are just three studies, and none of them can be considered definitive. Still, they are worth keeping in mind when grabbing for packaged food. Are you grabbing what your belly wants, or are you grabbing something else?