Food: Can marketing muscle make us lean?

Suzanna Forwood and Theresa Marteau
University of Cambridge

The waistlines of the West are getting larger, with increasing numbers of people in the US, UK and Australasia described as clinically obese. There is a consensus that environmental cues, which include food marketing, play a key role in our eating habits. Dr Suzanna Forwood and Professor Theresa Marteau explain how labelling food as healthy may have unintended consequences.

Promoting foods as fun and tasty, rather than as nutritious and healthy, increases their appeal

Marketing methods are broad and include advertising as well as 'below the line' activity, such as how a product is labelled, portioned and pitched to a particular eating event. They also encompass how it is priced, promoted and placed within the retail environment. This article focuses on just one aspect of marketing: how a product is labelled and the influence this has on our subsequent food behaviour – something that psychology can help us to understand.