This is how a supermarket makes you eat less meat (without you noticing)

This is how a supermarket makes you eat less meat (without you noticing)

This news is part of the following focus area:

We eat more meat than what would be good for us and for the planet. Unfortunately, changing our behaviour is not always easy. How can supermarkets play a role? Which techniques can they adopt to work their magic and make us eat less meat? And how do these techniques work?

Hendrik Slabbinck, a professor of marketing and a researcher at the Ghent University Behavioural Economics for Life (BE4Life) centre, dug into the existing literature (16 reviews covering at least 200 individual intervention studies) and ended up with the ranking below.

Which behavioural change techniques have the highest potential to reduce the purchase of meat and stimulate sustainable purchasing in supermarkets?

  1. Make it cheaper Price is the strongest incentive. Make vegetable products cheaper and/or make meat more expensive. Careful: a much lower price can create the impression that the product is of lower quality.

  2. Make it easy Place meat substitutes in the meat department and not in a separate department. The easier the meat alternative is to find in a familiar place, the more consumers will buy it.

  3. Adjust the product Offer pre-packed meat portions which are smaller but big enough to meet the recommended daily portion of protein or provide more similar-looking meat alternatives. A curiosity? Turn the descriptive and functional name of your product into something more appealing and you will spark customers’curiosity!

  4. Appeal to the social norm Encouraging a behaviour by communicating what other individuals do (e.g. “70% bought at least one ecological product”) usually works well. Using a social norm in relation to meat consumption or to influence food consumption has been used less compared to other domains such as recycling of food waste. It’s a subject that requires further research.

  5. Label the (negative) impact Labels that convey the negative impact of a product have more effect on purchasing behaviours than positive labels do. The effectiveness of “warning labels” can increase consistently if part of a broader communication strategy. It’s also important to bear in mind that people prefer to buy a product without a label rather than a product with a negative label. An eco-score therefore works best if all products are labelled with it.

  6. More knowledge has little effect The supermarket is not the place to transfer knowledge. For example, information on the impact of meat consumption or on the nutritional properties does not change (immediate) purchase behaviours. On the other hand, providing information on convenience (e.g. how to cook the product) may have a positive impact.

Can the supermarket and the government influence our behaviours?

We should eat less meat because it benefits the climate. We should eat less sugar because it's better for our health. We should eat more seasonal vegetables because they are grown locally. But are we on track? Can supermarkets and governments influence our purchasing behaviour? How? Or should they stay out of our shopping cart?

With these questions in mind, we engaged in an online debate with Zakia Khattabi, Minister of Climate, Environment and Sustainable Development (replaced by her chef de cabinet Bernard Mazijn); Hendrik Slabbinck, Professor of Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, Ugent; and Nathalie De Greve, Sustainability Manager at Comeos, the federation of supermarkets.

(video in French and Dutch)

Webinar Test Aankoop / Test Achats & Rikolto - 17/11/2021 from Test Aankoop / Test Achats on Vimeo.