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Groceries and Gum: Chewing Gum Influences Grocery Store Shopping

      Objective

      Impulse shopping in grocery stores – particularly when hungry – has been shown to encourage purchasing an increased percentage of less healthy food, such as potato chips and other ready-to-eat snacks. If one's craving of these foods could be interrupted or otherwise reduced, it could result in healthier shopping behavior.

      Study Design, Setting, Participants, and Intervention

      A lab study and a grocery store field study were conducted. In the lab study, 59 undergraduates were asked to shop at a simulated online grocery store. Half had been given sugarless chewing gum to chew and half were given nothing. A followup was conducted in the field at a small grocery store with 289 adults.

      Outcome, Measures and Analysis

      We measured number of healthier foods relative to overall food purchases for the first study, and hunger and cravings (on 9-point likert scales) for the second study.

      Results

      In the lab study, those chewing gum selected 21.25% fewer bags of chips and Doritos and 17.89% more fruits and vegetables compared to those who were not chewing gum. The overall ratio of healthier foods to less healthy foods in their shopping basket increased by 14.69% (p = 0.03). The field study results did not yield significant enhancements in the proportion of healthier purchases, however, possibly due to low average purchase quantities. There was, however, a significant reduction in self-reported hunger for chewers (p = .03), as well as directional reductions in self-reported cravings.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Chewing gum while shopping appears to lead consumers to select healthier food. In a lab study, gum chewers selected more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods, such as potato chips. There is early self-reported evidence that this may occur due to craving reduction.

      Funding

      Wrigley Science Advisory Council