Feel free to download and use any of the graphics, illustrations, videos, and resources on the page for educational purposes and with credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Food companies are in a sensitive position because they are torn between two groups of stakeholders – consumers who want a variety of tasty, inexpensive, convenient food, and concerned public policy officials and activists who believe that companies should be more responsive in helping combat obesity. We believe that humans gain weight because we are wired to overeat convenient, palatable, and easy (inexpensive) foods to obtain (non–coincidentally, the survival tactics of our Paleolithic relatives during the Ice Age).
However, nobody becomes obese overnight: we have found that more than 85% of the population gain weight because of an average calorie excess of less than 25 calories/day. We propose three principles that drive consumer behavior: that consumers seek convenience, variety and choice, and the option of value. While these three principles lead us to overeat, they can also be used by food companies to help us eat less, effectively de–marketing obesity. For example, we found that a sizable percentage of people are willing to pa more for something that would help them control their portions and that would help 70% of these people eat less in a single sitting. Food companies can separate large containers of food into several smaller containers, such as individually packed cookies or 100–calorie packs. This research opens a market in which food companies can sell multi–packs with smaller individual servings, which creates a natural pause for consumer to decide if they want to keep eating after finishing one pre–determined portion. Other options for food companies are to slightly change their products without compromising taste, to utilize simple, realistic labels on foods to educate consumers, and to keep foods affordable. We found that increasing the price of selected vending machine candies caused people to buy less of these candies, seeking other snack alternatives. These tactics are not fool proof and certainly not guaranteed to alter consumer behaviors over night, but we believe that food companies can market their products that benefit the health of consumers as well as the health of their companies. We hope that the 21st century will be the century of behavior change in that the idea that changing every–day, long term behaviors is the key to a healthy lifestyle, and that both consumers and food companies will change their behaviors to reflect these goals.
Wansink, Brian (2007). Helping Consumers Eat Less. Food Technology, 61(5), 34–38.