Reusable carrier bags can reveal what shoppers are likely to buy

by Search Gate staff. Published Wed 08 Jul 2015 12:52, Last updated: 2015-07-08
How reusable bags changes shopping decisions
How reusable bags changes shopping decisions

Taking reusable bags to the supermarket can help identify the environmentally friendly shopper but a new study has now discovered the products they are more likely to buy.

New research in the Journal of Marketing reveals unsurprisingly that shoppers who take their own bags are more likely to purchase organic food – and more surprisingly, junk food as well.

The study describes: "Grocery store shoppers who bring their own bags are more likely to purchase healthy food. But those same shoppers often feel virtuous, because they are acting in an environmentally responsible way.

“That feeling easily persuades them that, because they are being good to the environment, they should treat themselves to cookies or potato chips or some other product with lots of fat, salt, or sugar."

The study by Uma R. Karmarkar of Harvard University and Bryan Bollinger of Duke University is one of the first to demonstrate that bringing reusable grocery bags causes significant changes in food purchasing behaviour.

The authors collected loyalty cardholder data from a single location of a major grocery chain in California between May 2005 and March 2007. They compared the same shoppers on trips for which they brought their own bags with trips for which they did not.

Participants were also recruited online from a national pool and were randomly assigned one of two situations: bringing their own bags or not bringing their own bags. Depending on the situation, participants were presented with a certain scenario and a floorplan of the grocery store and were asked to list the ten items they were most likely to purchase on the trip.

The researchers found that when shoppers brought their own bags, they were more likely to purchase organic foods. At the same time, bringing one's own bags also increased the likelihood that the shopper would purchase junk food. And both results were slightly less likely when the shopper had young children: parents have to balance their own purchasing preferences with competing motivations arising from their role as parents.

"In short, bringing your own bags changes the way you shop," write the authors. "Our findings thus have important implications for grocery store managers. In stores where reusable bags are popular, marketing organic or sustainably farmed foods as indulgences could increase the sales of those items."



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