Tag Archives: bulk buying

What’s being left out of the conversation on buying in bulk?

The bulk department of the co-op is a favorite for many customers, including myself. It’s a chance to save some money, save some packaging, and it’s one less trip you might potentially have to make to the store. Earlier this week I observed that there are several subtle marketing methods that affect consumption behavior. The discovery of the vested interests behind my food choices made me feel informed. When I went back to the bulk department yesterday, I was excited by my newfound knowledge. I felt in control and ready to dodge any food companies marketing attempt to get me to buy more.

Turns out,  it’s not that simple. Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at the University of Illinois, would argue the opposite. His research shows that the biggest influence of food is not logic or reason, but things that we aren’t even aware of. “The size of a package, shape of a glass, the words on a menu or label, our proximity to food, and other invisible influences” are what have the greatest affect on consumption (Why we eat more than we think, Wansink).

In one study looking at how much people eat when food is stockpiled, Wansink found that for the first week people that bought in bulk ate twice as much food in comparison to those that bought in small quantities.

This suggests potentially negative consequences for buying in bulk. Wansink argues that relying on our mental resistance to control how much we eat is far less affective than changing our immediate environment. That said,  customers at the co-op that filled huge bags of granola, chocolate chips, etc. will eat more, regardless of whether or not they intended to and how much self-control they have, simply because the food is stockpiled and in their immediate environment, making us take more at any given time within the first week of purchase. On the flip side,  customers that buy in smaller quantities (i.e. boxed granola) are likely eat less than if they had bought double or triple the amount.

Here’s the trick: if you still want the perks of buying in bulk, but don’t want to eat more,  make sure to transfer food to smaller bags or storage containers once you get home from the grocery store. Then, store leftover  bulk items in the basement or hard to reach place.

Luckily, we can control certain aspects of our environment such as how and where we store our food. Given that buying in bulk is cost effective and reduces our environmental footprint, I highly reccommend it, just next time consider applying these tips!

WP 4/5

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