Supermarkets Designed to Make You Fat

Access to healthy food is a major issue in public health. But just because there's a grocery store nearby doesn't mean health will improve. One entrepreneur looking at supermarket design says the way stores are laid out negatively affects health.
May 13, 2011, 5am PDT | Nate Berg
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments

Public health expert Rupal Sanghvi says that supermarkets are designed to sell higher profit margin food -- which happens to be worse for you.

"Sanghvi took it upon herself to start connecting the dots between architecture, environmental design, and public health. In the year since establishing HealthxDesign, she has partnered with design professionals to investigate solutions ranging from sustainable building strategies for Bolivia's health care infrastructure to product design interventions for preventing infant mortality in impoverished communities. Now she has set her sights on the federal government's supermarket spending plan, with a proposal to rethink the store design template.

'The current supermarket template is not behavior neutral,' Sanghvi explains. 'The more times you bump into something at eye level, the more likely you are to purchase it, and store owners are aware of this. There's a lot of product placement and they're all about having the candy in front of the cash register for kids.'

Trying to encourage impulse buys may be obvious, but some factors driving shopping behaviors are more subtle. Bakeries are located toward the back of the store so the aroma will draw shoppers past items that might not be on their list, but which are likely to end up in the cart if spotted. Likewise dairy cases-where almost every shopper goes on every visit-tend to be in the rear. And for anyone who has ever wondered why supermarkets tend to be chilly, Sanghvi reports that heavy A/C actually triggers a basic human instinct: when we're cold, we want to accumulate more food."

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, May 12, 2011 in The Atlantic
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email