CSPI released a comprehensive new report that makes the case that merchandising candy and soda at checkout is undermining Americans’ health. Drawing on psychological research, reports in trade press, and case studies of healthy checkout pilot projects, “Temptation at Checkout: The Food Industry’s Sneaky Strategy for Selling More” makes the case that the retail environment should be shaped not only by economic drivers but also by public health considerations.
The report explains several key concepts related to checkout:
Placement is a powerful retail marketing technique, which can prompt purchases of unhealthy foods and beverages and create conflict with children.
Checkout induces impulse buys. Although people regularly resist temptation, it becomes harder when willpower reserves are low because people are tired, stressed, or busy with children—or have made a series of shopping decisions in the store (decision fatigue).
Checkout sets people up to buy foods and drinks that they didn’t plan to purchase. Given the selection of products at checkout, those purchases are almost exclusively unhealthy.
Checkout could promote health, as well as sales. Placing healthy foods in prominent places increases their visibility, accessibility, and sales. Stores also can sell non-food items, such as magazines, lip balm, hand sanitizer, and reusable bags.
The report includes recommendations for retailers, food manufacturers, policymakers, health departments, and individuals. The report is the kick-off of a comprehensive checkout campaign to ensure that impulse buys at the front of the store do not undermine health.