large number of ways to change the foods and beverages people purchase and consume.


In the United States today, the easy choice is not the healthy choice, said Jennifer Pomeranz, director of legal initiatives, Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. In supermarkets, for example, shoppers generally must pass through the store to reach the necessities located toward the back. Food marketers refer to end-of-aisle bulk displays as ground zero for in-store decision making because shoppers must pass by them to enter an aisle. Moreover, checkout aisles are lined with unhealthy food products that shoppers are encouraged to purchase on impulse while waiting to check out. According to a report from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), 73 percent of shoppers make impulse purchases in grocery stores, most often of candy, cookies, and chips (GMA Sales Committee, 2009). A retail report suggests that shoppers can avoid consuming thousands of calories a year by going through self-checkout aisles that lack displays of candy and other items (Schuman, 2006).

Shelf position is also big business in the retail environment. Companies pay large sums of money to have their products in certain locations. A study from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business showed that shelves in the vertical center, which is the natural resting eye position for adult shoppers, are best for default purchases (Dreze et al., 1994). When products—whether canned tuna, cereal, or toilet paper—were moved to different shelf locations, the items on the vertically central shelves were purchased the most. One former retailer described product location as “eye level equals buy level.” High shelves, in contrast, are reserved for slow-moving products and products sought by destination shoppers (Cardello, 2009).

Retail outlets also rely heavily on point-of-purchase and package promotions using spokespeople, licensed characters, celebrities, games, graphics, premiums, and movie tie-ins. According to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) study, expenditures on these promotions are second only to those on television advertising (FTC, 2006). Furthermore, Pomeranz noted that a Yale study conducted from 2006 to 2008 found that 79 percent of all such food promotions are targeted to children under the age of 12 (Harris et al., 2009). More than 80 percent of the food promoted was found to be unhealthy, and over the 3 years of the study, the nutritional quality of the promoted foods declined, despite pledges made by the food and beverage industries as part of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (described in Chapter 4).

Another study of “fun food” packaging, which excluded snack items,

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