New Year's Res-Illusions: Food Shopping in the New Year Competes with Healthy Intentions

Pope L, Hanks AS, Just DR, Wansink B (2014) New Year’s Res-Illusions: Food Shopping in the New Year Competes with Healthy Intentions. PLoS ONE 9(12): e110561. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110561

7 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2014

See all articles by Lizzy Pope

Lizzy Pope

Cornell University - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

Andrew Hanks

The Ohio State University

David Just

Cornell University - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

Brian Wansink

Retired

Date Written: December 17, 2014

Abstract

Objective: How do the holidays – and the possible New Year's resolutions that follow – influence a household's purchase patterns of healthier foods versus less healthy foods? This has important implications for both holiday food shopping and post-holiday shopping.

Methods: 207 households were recruited to participate in a randomized-controlled trial conducted at two regional-grocery chain locations in upstate New York. Item-level transaction records were tracked over a seven-month period (July 2010 to March 2011). The cooperating grocer’s proprietary nutrient-rating system was used to designate "healthy," and "less healthy" items. Calorie data were extracted from online nutritional databases. Expenditures and calories purchased for the holiday period (Thanksgiving-New Year’s), and the post-holiday period (New Year's-March), were compared to baseline (July-Thanksgiving) amounts.

Results: During the holiday season, household food expenditures increased 15% compared to baseline ($105.74 to $121.83; p,0.001), with 75% of additional expenditures accounted for by less-healthy items. Consistent with what one would expect from New Year’s resolutions, sales of healthy foods increased 29.4% ($13.24/week) after the holiday season compared to baseline, and 18.9% ($9.26/week) compared to the holiday period. Unfortunately, sales of less-healthy foods remained at holiday levels ($72.85/week holiday period vs. $72.52/week post-holiday). Calories purchased each week increased 9.3% (450 calories per serving/week) after the New Year compared to the holiday period, and increased 20.2% (890 calories per serving/week) compared to baseline.

Conclusions: Despite resolutions to eat more healthfully after New Year's, consumers may adjust to a new "status quo" of increased less-healthy food purchasing during the holidays, and dubiously fulfill their New Year's resolutions by spending more on healthy foods. Encouraging consumers to substitute healthy items for less-healthy items may be one way for practitioners and public health officials to help consumers fulfill New Year's resolutions, and reverse holiday weight gain.

Suggested Citation

Pope, Elizabeth and Hanks, Andrew and Just, David and Wansink, Brian, New Year's Res-Illusions: Food Shopping in the New Year Competes with Healthy Intentions (December 17, 2014). Pope L, Hanks AS, Just DR, Wansink B (2014) New Year’s Res-Illusions: Food Shopping in the New Year Competes with Healthy Intentions. PLoS ONE 9(12): e110561. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110561, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2539795

Elizabeth Pope

Cornell University - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management ( email )

Ithaca, NY
United States

Andrew Hanks

The Ohio State University ( email )

130A Campbell Hall
1787 Neil Ave.
Columbus, OH OH 43210
United States

David Just

Cornell University - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management ( email )

Ithaca, NY
United States
6072552086 (Phone)

Brian Wansink (Contact Author)

Retired ( email )

607-319-0123 (Phone)

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