Promoting healthy food choices among (aware) customers


  • D. Marchiori
  • T. Cheung
  • M. Adriaanse
  • F. Kroese
  • B. Fennis
  • M. Gillebaart
  • D. de Ridder


Background: Nudging is a method of changing people’s behavior by modifying the physical and/or social context in which they act. Two studies examined the effectiveness of nudging (i.e., social norm, salience, accessibility) to promote healthy food choices in field settings. In addition, we examined whether awareness of being nudged moderates their effectiveness. Methods: In Study 1, placemats that communicated a social norm of healthy eating either explicitly (Week 2) or implicitly (Week 4) were placed on cafeteria trays. In Study 2, different healthy products at a take-away food vendor were nudged, either by making them more easily accessible or more salient. This study ran for seven weeks. Week 2 served as the experimental phase, followed by four washout weeks, and an additional experimental week, where the nudges were disclosed to customers with an explicit sign. Both studies compared sales data of healthy foods to a baseline week (Week 1). Findings: In Study 1, the explicit social norm increased healthy food sales by 4% and the implicit social norm by 24%. In Study 2, the accessibility nudge increased sales of fruit by 73% in the nudge week, and by 82% in the nudge + disclosure week. The salience nudge increased sales of healthy bread rolls by 9 and 12%, for the nudge and the nudge + disclosure week, respectively. Discussion: Both field studies show that it is possible to nudge people into buying more healthy foods while at the same time being upfront about the interventions.