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Can ‘supersized’ help you lose weight?

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By feeding into consumers’ desire to get a bargain, the same economic “supersizing” mindset that leads to unhealthy choices at fast food restaurants could encourage consumers to make healthier decisions.

“We know the health implications of a giant latte or supersized fries, so a little justification through feeling financially savvy and saving money makes us feel better about our decision and increases consumption,” says Kelly Haws, marketing researcher at Vanderbilt University.

New research published in the Journal of Marketing shows consumers may be just as willing to buy healthy food if they feel they’re getting a deal.

“One of the studies in our research paper shows similar ‘supersizing’ effects happening with the purchase of baby carrots. Consumers are very attracted to deals in general and saving money per unit is very appealing to us, even when the deal is a larger bag of baby carrots,” Haws says.

“There’s no question in my mind we would get many more consumers to choose the smaller entre size if the price were exactly proportional to the size of food that they’re receiving,” Haws says.

The research also shows that reminders of nutritional goals—such as signs—can have some mitigating effect on the harmful effects of supersizing.

The phrase that pays

The term “supersizing” was coined by the McDonald’s corporation in the mid-1990s to denote the practice of selling larger portions of fries and drinks for disproportionately small increases in price. McDonald’s dropped the term by the early 2000s.

But it’s an effective business practice that lives on, especially in the fast food industry.

Businesses are taking what they’ve learned about the consumer mindset to the healthier side with pre-packaged smaller quantities such as “100 calorie packs.”

American consumers would be wise to follow the lead of the French if they wish to indulge in high caloric foods, Haws says.

“That is, consumers may eat indulgent foods as the French are perceived to do, yet if they do so in small quantities, they should avoid excessive weight gain.”

Karen Winterich, assistant professor of marketing at Penn State, was a co-author on the study.

Source: Vanderbilt University

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