Welcome to the blog for Colgate University's interdisciplinary course on food. This is the place to keep up with what students in the course are experiencing in their work at Common Thread Community Farm and through their everyday encounters with food.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Supermarket's Six Commandments

       This year, I’m a junior in college and it’s the first year that I must grocery shop for myself. My first trip to the grocery store—Price Chopper—was overwhelming to say the least. I walked up and down each aisle fifteen times, called my mom eight times, and went up to the cash register two times...only to leave the store with nothing. My second trip to Price Chopper was just as overwhelming, but for a different reason. This time, I had just read chapter 1 of Marion Nestle’s “What to Eat," where she describes the shrewd and skillful science behind the supermarket design/layout: product selection, placement on shelves, and display. “Corporations hire social scientists to study unconscious human emotions not for the good of humanity but to help companies manipulate people into buying products.” They expose us (consumers) to the largest possible number of items that we can stand to see, without annoying us so much that we run screaming from the store. To do this, supermarkets, including Price Chopper, follow a set of fundamental rules—all of them based firmly on extensive research: 
  • “Place the highest-selling food departments in the parts of the store that get the greatest flow of traffic—the periphery. Perishables—meat, produce, dairy, and frozen food—generate the most sales, so put them against the back and side walls.” 

(Fresh produce and frozen foods lined the back and side walls of Price Chopper) 
  •  “Use the aisle nearest the entrance for items that sell especially well on impulse or look or smell enticing—produce, flowers, or freshly baked bread, for example. These must be the first things customers see in front or immediately to the left or right (the direction, according to researchers, doesn’t matter).”
(The first thing I see when I walk into Price Chopper is the flower section) 
  • “Use displays at the ends of aisles for high-profit, heavily advertised items likely to be bought on impulse.”

(High-profit items like Goldfish, Hershey's, Reese's, M&M's, Oreo's, and Ritz-Bits are all placed at the end of the aisles) 
  • “Place high-profit, center-aisle food items sixty inches above the floor where they are easily seen by adults, with or without eyeglasses.”
(This entire section contains flavored water, but the high-profit brand of Poland Spring bottles are placed in the middle rows--60 inches above the floor--so that they are better accessible and seen) 

  •       “Devote as much shelf space as possible to brands that generate frequent sales; the more shelf space they occupy, the better they sell.”
(Coca-Cola takes up most shelf space in the soft drink aisle) 
  •   “Place store brands immediately to the right of these high-traffic jam items (people read from left to right), so that the name brands attract shoppers to the store brands too.”
(Price Chopper cereal is placed to the right of big brand-name cereal like Raisin Bran and Life) 

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