Is Food Marketing Making Us Fat? A Multi-Disciplinary Review

74 Pages Posted: 31 May 2011 Last revised: 13 Jan 2014

Pierre Chandon


Brian Wansink

Cornell University

Date Written: May 26, 2011


Whereas everyone recognizes that increasing obesity rates worldwide are driven by a complex set of interrelated factors, the marketing actions of the food industry are often singled out as one of the main culprits. But how exactly is food marketing making us fat? To answer this question, we review evidence provided by studies in marketing, nutrition, psychology, economics, food science, and related disciplines that have examined the links between food marketing and energy intake but have remained largely disconnected. Starting with the most obtrusive and most studied marketing actions, we explain the multiple ways in which food prices (including temporary price promotions) and marketing communication (including branding and nutrition and health claims) influence consumption volume. We then study the effects of less conspicuous marketing actions which can have powerful effects on eating behavior without being noticed by consumers. We examine the effects on consumption of changes in the food’s quality (including its composition, nutritional and sensory properties) and quantity (including the range, size and shape of the packages and portions in which it is available). Finally, we review the effects of the eating environment, including the availability, salience and convenience of food, the type, size and shape of serving containers, and the atmospherics of the purchase and consumption environment. We conclude with research and policy implications.

Keywords: obesity, nutrition, food, marketing, advertising, pricing, packaging, labeling, calorie

JEL Classification: I12, I18, M31, M37, M39, Q18, L66

Suggested Citation

Chandon, Pierre and Wansink, Brian, Is Food Marketing Making Us Fat? A Multi-Disciplinary Review (May 26, 2011). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2011/64/MKT/INSEAD Social Science Research Centre. Available at SSRN: or

Pierre Chandon (Contact Author)

INSEAD ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
77305 Fontainebleau Cedex

Brian Wansink

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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