Should Supermarket Product Placement Be Regulated
As we roll along through November, you’ll notice a trend across every supermarket.
The weeks are sprinting along to Christmas, which means the festive sweets and treats are out in force.
Enter any supermarket, regardless of size, and you’ll be greeted with walls of tins and tubs.
So the question I want to raise is, Should there be regulation on product placement in supermarkets to encourage healthy eating and curb obesity?
Evolution Of Product Placement In The Supermarket
Okay, I may sound a lot older as I write this.
But I want to confirm that I am in fact 32.5 years old.
If you think back to childhood, supermarkets were a lot different.
Products were contained and assorted in certain aisles.
And generally, there was the one “sweet section”.
Supermarkets were built around the butcher counter, fruit and veg and of course, spuds and bread!
But then they started getting bigger and bigger.
So more room meant bigger aisles, so they stocked more.
Along with that, we rapidly shifted from home cooked meals, meats and veg, to more time-efficient, processed foods.
So the explosion of boxes and cartons throughout stores emerged.
Cereals were always a big seller too.
But along with that, confectionery became a massive seller in shops.
And when something sells good, it means more profit.
So companies then began marketing more and more.
And as companies want to be first in line, they’re going to find new ways to get their product in front of you.
Open any newspaper, social platform, pass a bus stop or watch tv and you’ll be hit with ads for sweet stuff.
As the years go by, they started to also change the product placement within shops.
Checkouts got lined with bars of chocolate and sweets.
Crisps were down low so kids could grab them.
More and more started to be added.
Suddenly, a shop became a maze of confectionery.
Don’t believe me?
Next time you go to the supermarket, have a look around.
As you enter, you’ll see indulgence buys lined up as you enter, they’ll be at the end of aisles, and generally on ‘offer’ too.
Meaning it’s an easier buy.
Because who doesn’t love a discount?
How It Becomes Harder To Say No
When you walk in and see the tubs of Celebrations, you immediately think of your favourite ones.
How good eat one tastes and their distinctive flavours.
The texture of them in your mouth.
How good you feel when sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and a few Celebrations or Roses.
Even the rustle of the wrappers as you try to sneakily open them without the kids hearing.
Or the row over who ate the nice ones and left all them sh*te Bounty ones in the tub!
But I can bet that that doesn’t happen when you pass through the meat and veg aisles.
They don’t stimulate the reward pathways in your brain.
And they don’t deliver the same pleasure from eating them.
It’s why supermarkets are lined everywhere with confectionery.
To drive the impulse to buy.
And the more you’re exposed to those sweets and crisps, the more chance you’ll eventually stopping saying No, and end up saying Yes.
There used to be a saying – Stick to the perimeter of supermarkets when shopping.
Vegetables, Dairy, Meat counters are generally on the perimeter.
Then processed foods and boxed foods were in the centre aisles.
But slowly that has shifted away from that.
And those items, while still being located primarily in the middle, still find their way to various locations around supermarkets.
Battling The Food Environment
Socially, our food environment has been shifted towards fast food, convenience and hyper palatable foods.
All of which is very easy to overeat while providing little in terms of nutrition.
Assess any town and I guarantee you’ll see more Fast Food restaurants than you see butchers and fruit’n’veg shops.
Social media is loaded with amazing photos of foods that trigger the Pavlov effect in us.
The term ‘foodie’ has exploded which always amuses me since, well, we all kind of like food?
But in 2019 and beyond, we’ve moved away from home cooked meals towards grabbing a takeaway, eating out or focusing more on convenience foods like pizza etc so that you just whack them in the oven while you stare mindlessly into your phone.
It’s almost like we’ve had a massive cultural shift.
Food is now a social thing rather than simply fuelling our body for activity and health.
So while our environment will surround us with those indulgent foods, is it possible that some simple regulation could help people stick to healthy eating and combat the obesity crisis?
Could pulling things back a notch and restricting sweets and chocolate to their assigned aisles, rather than being spread throughout the shop, be a way to help those looking to eat healthier?
Out of sight, out of mind?
While it won’t stop people from buying them, it may help those people who are trying to lose weight and improve their health by not being exposed as much to them.
And that way they won’t need to exercise their will power as much.
Otherwise, we’ll have to tear into the shop like Supermarket Sweep where you sprint in, grab all you need in 60 seconds and be at the till while a reincarnated Dale Winton announces your shopping total!
Do you notice these trends when you go shopping?
And have you noticed their effect on your own shopping behaviour and impulses?
Let me know!