Skip to content

The Sneaky Way Grocery Stores Are Getting You to Buy More Unhealthy Food

Are we really going back to processed junk food?

During March, processed snack food sales shot up. The makers of Oreos, Fig Newtons, Nutter Butter cookies, and Kellogg's frozen waffles and pancakes have seen soaring increases in sales of these products. But even with the pandemic loosening its grip, renewed popularity of processed foods doesn't seem to be slowing down.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest food news delivered straight to your inbox.

Sure, working from home and not doing much outside of our homes has brought us back to a more sedentary lifestyle that relies heavily on snacking for some much-needed instant gratification. But part of the reason we're retuning to unhealthy processed snack foods may also lie in sneaky ways that grocery stores coax us into impulse purchases at our most vulnerable—like when we think there's a food shortage coming, for example. It all inevitably leads us back to the physical or virtual snack aisle, where comfort resides in the form of sweet treats and snacks we remember from childhood.

Related: 20 Sneaky Ways Restaurants Get You to Eat More Food and Spend More Money

How grocery stores influence our purchases

Many grocery stores have set up a shelf-replenishing model whereby the food company is responsible for restocking grocery shelves with their own product. As the New York Times reports, this can often spell shelf wars—where the company that snoozes loses out on shelf visibility, while the most diligent companies have benefitted from keeping their shelves stocked with product all over the nation. While the meat aisles were empty, and flour was hard to find, Oreos and Ritz crackers were reliably always in stock.

On the other hand, shopping for groceries online has its own pitfalls when it comes to buying more than we need. Many grocery stores have a minimum required purchase for free shipping, and most of us end up filling our shopping carts not with more kitchen staples, but with snacks that bring us just over the required spending amount. Junk food is rarely on anyone's shopping list, but it somehow ends up making its way into our pantry anyway. Here's how to write the most effective grocery list and stick to it.

Next time you reach for more cookies or chips, ask yourself whether you'd be buying this if it weren't for the pandemic, and whether you've crossed the line of eating more than 100 Oreos in the last week. In case you need a refresher, here's a list of 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.

Mura Dominko
Mura is ETNT's Executive Editor, leading the coverage of America's favorite restaurant chains, grocery stores, and viral food moments. Read more about Mura
Filed Under