The supermarket is nowadays for many people in the Western world the only place where they do their groceries. Supermarkets are an American phenomenon that really took off after the Second World War. The advent of the large supermarkets has in most places ensured that the local neighbourhood shops had to close their doors.

Supermarkets provide a range of services and discounts to customers in their mutual struggle for the content of the customers wallet. But the main purpose of the supermarket always remains to maximize their profits. They do this by exposing you to as many products as possible (choices), without seeing you running away screaming from the supermarket.

Behind this lies a whole science that most people are unware of. The mostly manipulative psychological methods that are used by the marketing in order to maximize sales seem to work pretty well.

For instance, most supermarkets have some things in common. The shelves near the entrance are mostly used for products that are beautiful to look at and smell good. Think of flowers, fruit & vegetables or freshly baked bread. The fresh departments such as fruits & vegetables, dairy and meat generate the most sales. Therefore, you can find them most of the time in the back or along one of the sides in the store, at least spread out so you will have to go through the entire store.

The lanes in the supermarket are mainly used for the sale of pre-packed long-life products of the food industry. These products usually generate the biggest profits for the supermarket. The products that you will see most generate the most sales, so the products that earn the most profit for the supermarket you usually find at eye level for adults. Sweets and candy are often placed a bit lower on the shelves so they lie within the sights of smaller children. The more place on the shelves for a particular brand, the more that brand is sold. Private supermarket label products are usually located to the right of the comparable A-brand products. This is because people tend to read from left to right and that makes the customers of the A-brands choose the private supermarket product.

Usually there are no gaps in the lanes through which you can escape, at least if the rows are not that long that the customers start complaining. The supermarket wants to make sure you get to see all of their products.

When you go to the supermarket and you want to come back home with some healthy foods, it’s best to stay out of the aisles where you can find all the long-life products. One way to make products longer lasting is to replace the healthy unstable omega-3 fatty acids for the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids of which we already consume way to much in the West. Another way to extend shelf life is to add all kinds of foreign substances or remove certain nutrients. Therefore, it’s best to try as much as possible to do your groceries at the fresh food departments. Fresh food with a limited shelf life is generally healthier. An exception to this is the dairy department, this department is filled with hundreds different species of milk and yoghurt with flavourings and I don’t know what else. These products are often overloaded with sugars and other unhealthy additives.

It’s best to limit the products of which sugar is one of the main ingredients. Save them for celebrations and parties. The ingredients of a packaged product are listed in order of the amount it contains. So leave them if sugar is one of the top three ingredients. But it’s not so easy anymore to read the labels on the packages. The food industry uses about 40 different types of sugars, each with their own name. Examples of different names for sugars include: glucose, sucrose, dextrose, fructo-oligosaccharides, fruit juice concentrate , invert sugar syrup and so on. It all remains the same as natural sugar, just sugar.
It’s a smart thing to learn yourself to read the ingredients list on the packaging of a product before you put it into your shopping cart. If the list of ingredients contains all kinds of ingredients you don’t use to cook, or your mother / grandmother or anyone else you know who can cook for himself, if you yourself are not yet able to cook some food. I say “not yet” because it’s my opinion that when you’ve got yourself to reading this site you’re already one step closer to the stove. So if you see products with ingredients with varying chemical names it might be better to not buy these products.

Health claims on packages are also best to be avoided. This may sound a bit contradictory but in general it are the products processed by the food industry which bear the most health claims. It will cost a company lots of money to be allowed to put these claims on their products. Oftentimes it are only the giants in the industry that can finance these claims with usually incomplete research. Anyway, a product that needs packaging is usually processed and not fresh, and it turns out that it are just these products that are not really healthy for you.

The best you can do is to stay away from the supermarket as much as possible. It might take you a bit more time to do all of your groceries, but at least you won't be exposed to all the temptations in the supermarket. When you do your shopping at the local store or farmers market, you support your local exonomy, and you won't end up with lots of processed foods.

Streetart in A'dam, Netherlands