A study has shown that packaging of chocolates and candies influences purchasing choice of the product.
University of Alberta researcher Jennifer Argo's new study indicates that that people eat more of a product when it is placed in small packages rather than regular-sized ones.
However, she said, those with low-appearance self-esteem, the term researchers use to describe people who are concerned about their body, weight or physical appearance, tend to consume more than the average population, especially when certain conditions seemed favourable.
"The low-appearance self-esteem people ate the most when they were told that the caloric information was favourable (low in calories), when the caloric information was on the front of the package and when the product was visible (clear packaging)," said Argo.
"People in the high-appearance self-esteem category-those who did not indicate concerns about weight or physical appearance-still ate more, but there was a big jump in the consumption quantity for [those with low self-esteem]."
The low-appearance self-esteem participants tended to eat less when the product wasn't visible, the caloric information was missing or they believed there were more calories in the small packages than what they expected.
Argo said elements such as a visible product and content labelling information served as cues to the group's susceptibility, which she noted gave this group a false sense of belief that the package would help them manage consumption and help them achieve potential weight-management goals.
While this might be true if only a single small package is present, Argo says that, in reality, small packaged goods are often sold in multiples and her study showed that these helpful, small packages are detrimental to consumers' waistlines.
"These consumers are basically saying, 'this package is going to protect me; it's going to help me achieve my goal,' and so they relinquish control to the package," she said.
"They throw up their hands and say, 'I don't have to worry because the package is taking care of everything for me."
As soon as they've given up initial control, they have no control to deal with that next package that's presented to them."
Argo says that buying the regular-sized packages of these types of snacks and exercising portion control will not only reduce calories, but also save money as well.
The article will be published in the forthcoming Journal of Marketing.