How your supermarket is designed to make you buy junk food!

Nutrition Digestion

Read about how supermarkets influence your shopping decisions in this blog.

Healthy eating is important. We know the importance of eating well, of staying away from processed foods high in sugars and bad fats. And yet, it can be so easy to come home, unpack the shopping and discover that a large portion of your weekly shop doesn’t look like fresh produce.

What most people don’t realise is how our eating habits are influenced by our environment without even noticing it. So to help encourage mindful eating and shopping, we thought we’d go through a few supermarket design secrets and tips to overcome them!

How supermarkets influence what you buy!

Our shopping behaviour is influenced the moment we step into a supermarket. From general supermarket layout to shelf position, the most popular items are strategically placed.

Shelf position

Our eyes naturally look at what’s straight ahead. This means we’re more likely to go for the item at eye level than to look at the shelves above or below. This is the reason so many snack foods are placed on the lower half of the shelves as the items are within reach for kids!

Location in the supermarket

One thing that supermarkets have been good about is ensuring that fresh produce usually appears as soon as you walk in the doors, before your trolley is full. However, if a supermarket is cleverly designed, you’ll still be encouraged to wander through each and every isle, distracted by impulse items you really didn’t need. Similarly, it’s quite common for junk food to appear in the isle right next to the fruit and veggies. This is because there’s a common spill-over effect or story many people tell themselves that means that once you’ve added healthy foods, it’s easier to justify reaching for the chocolate bar you wouldn’t otherwise select.

Discount/sale specials

When you consider how many different types of cereal or bread are sold in supermarkets, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by choice. One way we overcome this challenge is by looking for a feature that stands out. By making items specialsor offering discounts/sales, it encourages us to choose that item over others. The trap here is that often the discount is for when you buy a few of the item which can take up precious space in your trolley!

Lighting and visuals

We eat using all senses and so, how food looks has a great impact on whether we want to buy it. If there’s natural lighting, colourful displays or bright and cheerful visuals, we’re more likely to hover and take something. However, if the colours are drab, lighting an unpleasant fluorescent colour and the display uninviting, you’re guaranteed to stay away.  


As with lighting, smells can be addictive which is why the bread isle is one of the most dangerous. The smell of baked goods is often enough to make mouths water and to tempt us to add that fruit loaf or cake to the trolley. In the same way, if ever you see people offering samples, think twice before approaching as it’s a very easy way to convince you to add unwanted items to your basket.

Tips for buying better

As you can see, we’re at a bit of a disadvantage the moment we step foot in the supermarket. So what can you do to limit the amount of unhealthy foods you buy?

Don’t shop when hungry

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but try to avoid shopping when hungry! Unfortunately, when we’re hungry, our rational mind seems to disappear and we seem to act in a more primal state of survival and foods. This means that foods which smell delicious (ie bread, chips, chocolate) become far more tempting than they otherwise might!

Shop at farmers markets

One of my favourite things to do on a Saturday morning is to go to a farmer’s market. Not only do you support local farmers but your shop is free of the temptations of processed, sugary foods and you’re much more likely to stock up on great, healthy produce at a reasonable price!

Go in with a plan!

Being prepared can make a world of difference. One tip to stop you from buying a bunch of things you don’t need (and from forgetting the things you do) is to write a list of the things you need to buy. Another great trick is to in your mind, divide your trolley into sections. Having a section (ideally a large one) exclusively for fresh produce and healthy foods can limit the amount of bad foods you buy and make you consciously focus on the healthy foods you want to bring home.

Wishing you great health,

Dr Pete

PS. You are welcome to share this with friends and family

About Dr Pete

Dr Peter Holsman is a qualified Medical Practitioner, Naturopath and Professional Speaker based in Melbourne. An expert in his field with over 30 years experience, he specialises in treating people with fatigue related illnesses including stress, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid and adrenal hormone problems.

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