Sneaky marketing used by grocery stores

Sneaky marketing used by grocery stores
Grocery stores use various strategies to tempt shoppers, even in the produce section. These techniques are known as food marketing.

Our diets have changed considerably over the past 30 years, and so has the food industry. Grocery stores now have thousands of products to choose from and use various strategies to tempt shoppers, even in the produce section. These techniques are known as food marketing.

What’s more, every aspect—from smells and colours to free samples and product displays—is designed to make you buy more. Keep these food marketing strategies in mind so that you don’t fall into the trap.

Shopping carts

Marketing ploys come into play from the moment you set foot in the store. You’ve probably noticed that shopping carts have gotten bigger over the years. The main reason, of course, is to give you more space for your items. At the same time, a roomier cart can make you feel as though you aren’t buying enough if it isn’t completely full.

Next to these supersize carts, you’ll often see miniature versions for kids. Adorable? Absolutely. But their real purpose is to encourage your little ones to fill them with whatever they please. Don’t be surprised if your child reaches for products that have colourful packaging or feature their favourite cartoon characters.

A fresh start

Your trips to the grocery store almost certainly begin in the fruit and vegetable section, since in most cases it’s the first section in the store. The idea is that—after crossing the healthy foods off your list—you might feel less guilty about giving into desserts, chips, or pizza in the other aisles.

Not far from the fresh produce, you’ll often find “made-in-store” products, such as BBQ chicken, salads, and baked goods—a mouthwatering bouquet of aromas designed to get your stomach growling! Stores have begun drawing more and more attention to this section, as ready-made meals are increasingly in demand among today’s consumers.

The aisles

Dairy products, eggs, and other staples tend to be found at the back or sides of the store. By making it necessary to walk through all of the aisles to find them, the store is able to draw your attention to more promotions. As a result, there’s a good chance you’ll be tempted to fill your basket with items that you don’t necessarily need.

In the aisles, the products that the store wants you to buy are placed at eye level: lower at the start and end of the aisle and higher in the middle. Always scan both high and low along the full length of the shelves to make the wisest choice. Also, keep in mind that products that target kids are placed on the shelves where they will see them when seated in the shopping cart.


Our eyes are drawn to discount prices. According to the magazine Protégez-Vous, grocery stores typically offer savings of 10 to 30 per cent, though you will also come across bigger markdowns. Always ask yourself whether you’re really saving money—especially with bundle discounts such as “3 for $5” deals.

Free samples are another tactic designed to tantalize your senses and make you buy more.

Many products go on sale on a regular basis, so it’s often a good idea to wait before buying them. Be careful not to fall for items displayed at the ends of aisles; companies pay to have their products featured in these spots, so what looks like a deal may not be one at all.

At the checkout counter, you’ll find even more products aimed at inspiring last-minute impulse purchases.

Right to the end, the goal is to make your visit an enjoyable experience. After all, the happier you are, the longer you’ll stay and the more you’ll buy!

Appealing to kids
According to Coalition Poids, kids influence more than 40 per cent of a family’s purchases. This amount of sway makes them a prime target at the grocery store. You might come across food packaging, for example, that features cartoon characters as a way to grab children’s attention. In Quebec, this type of strategy is an exception to the provincial law against advertising directed at children under 13. However, a nationwide bill was introduced to ban the use of food marketing aimed at children.



Naître et grandir

Source: Naître et grandir magazine, September 2017
Research and writing: Naître et grandir staff
Scientific review:
Jordan Lebel, professor of food marketing, Concordia University


Photo: GettyImages/Juanmonino