What if your favorite Big Mac came in a plain, brown paper bags instead of a bright red box – would you still buy it? One of the biggest brain researchers in the U.K. says that overeating and obesity would be less of a problem in developed countries if junk food was sold in plain instead of fancy packaging.
Tricking Consumers into Buying Products
The suggestion was first put forth by a neuroscientist from Cambridge University, Wolfram Schultz, who argued that the clever marketing and packaging techniques by companies is making junk food extremely hard to resist by most people. Shultz has spent more than 30 years observing the physiological effects of using colorful images on food packaging which compels consumers to buy them despite knowing that they’re bad for health.
Food companies understand the circuit in our brain associated with reward – which is also responsible for developing serious addiction for alcohol, drugs, and gambling – and have found a way to hijack it in order to increase their own revenues, but at the expense of public health.
Countries have already begun to adopt packaging and advertising policies against tobacco companies for many years, and from May onwards, all cigarettes are expected to be sold in olive green boxes, which has scientifically been proven to trigger less temptations than any other color. But why won’t governments adopt similar policies for unhealthy junk food which is even a bigger issue than tobacco?
Obesity: A Growing Epidemic
Currently, more than one in three adults in America is overweight or obese whereas the dangerous epidemic has affected more than one-third of the population in the UK. These numbers are expected to rise significantly in the next 10 years, and the government is more pressured to act now before it’s too late.
Some efforts are already being made in the UK where the government has ordered larger, more obvious nutrition labels on foods in order to make the consumers more aware of what they’re putting inside their bodies. The move has only slightly improved consumer behavior which has put more pressure on lawmakers to come up with a strategy which is much stronger in clamping down junk food consumption than increasing the font size on food labels.
Schultz, who was the winner of a £1 million prize by Brain, the equivalent of Nobel Prize in brain science, says that the first solution to the current health crisis in UK and rest of the developed world is to avoid obesity in the first place. Once the weight creeps up on you, it can be very hard to get rid of it and may come with a number of consequences such as weaker metabolism and heart issues.
Clever Product Layouts in Grocery Stores
Attractive packaging is one of the biggest marketing techniques companies use to sell their products, and once you buy the devilish junk food items to fill up your fridge, your brain is constantly triggered with temptations when you open the fridge – and you end up eating the bad foods in much higher quantities than you had anticipated.
Think of every time you’re greeted into the store with a pile of discounted junk food and more sugary treats and snacks at the register to stimulate spending – this isn’t just a coincidence; grocery stores put a lot of thought into designing the layout of their isles, which is why most people fall into the booty trap of buying more than they need – especially when it comes to junk food.
Most experts think that Schultz’s proposal could actually work in reducing fast food consumption, but they aren’t sure by how much. It is only up to the lawmakers to test the proposal in the real world and see if banishing junk food marketing could work in making people healthier and disease-free.