Four clever tricks the food industry have designed to make you buy more unhealthy food

Don’t fall for these marketing ploys to encourage shoppers to buy foods which jeopardise a healthy lifestyle

by Katie Sutton

mini cheddars packetThe food industry sells food products to shops and supermarkets who sell them to us at a profit. The goal for the food industry is the same as any profit making business; to sell as much as possible in order to make money.

What we eat directly affects our health, and generally speaking, we need to cut down on foods high in sugar, salt and fat, particularly saturated fat. These foods are usually cheap to produce and heavily marketed and promoted, so it can be useful to know some of the tricks of the trade so we can outsmart the industry….

The Red Tab

Many types of biscuits require you to pull a tab to open them.  Ever noticed you can’t properly twist the packet closed again until you’ve eaten at least seven? This simple technique encourages us to eat more than we may have planned to in order to close the packer. The more we eat, the quicker we run out, and the more we buy. Simple.

The solution: Don’t be a pawn to the packet – put the remaining biscuits in a re-sealable food bag or tub, or a biscuit tin, and only eat one or two at a time.


No, we’re not being rude here; BOGOF stands for Buy One Get One Free. This trick is designed to make you think you’re getting a bargain, but remember companies won’t sell things they don’t somehow make money on. Additionally, many people report they didn’t plan to buy the product in the first place, so you may actually be spending money you weren’t intending to.

The solution: be aware offers are designed to reel you in so think before you buy and make a shopping list. If it’s not on the list, don’t buy it.

Five is ‘better value’ than one.

Ever noticed buying a pack of something is ‘better value’ than buying one? Donuts are a good example. In Tesco you can buy a single donut for 30p, or a pack of five for 65p, making each single one only 13p. Remember what seems ‘better value’ for our wallets may not be better value for our health. If you buy five, you are more likely to eat five.

The solution – if your willpower is strong buy the multi-packs and either donate extras to friends and family, or portion things out. If it’s not so strong, make a positive decision for your health and buy the single item, which is likely still the cheaper option, and feel positive about the sugar, salt and fat you avoided

Endless choice

Our Shape Up weight loss groups agree there is too much choice when buying cereals, breads and yoghurts with a whole aisle each. Food variety has evolved as way of ensuring we consume all the right nutrients for good health. Sensory specific satiety refers to a temporary decrease in liking or wanting for a certain food following its consumption. Basically, it means we would consume far fewer calories if we were eating only one food, as opposed to a selection. A good example is a box of chocolates – if all the chocolates were the same flavour we would consume far less than if all the chocolates were different flavours. The theory of specific sensory satiety explains why food manufacturers provide so much choice in the flavour and variety of their products.

The solution:

  • Keep everything inside the Eatwell Guide varied to ensure you get all the different nutrients for good health
  • When it comes to unhealthy foods stick to things like single type biscuits and chocolate bars rather than variety packs, stick to one or two flavours of crisps when hosting gatherings, and be wary of ‘mini’ versions of the different bakery goods which can quickly add up to more than an original sized one.
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