Why we eat (and throw out) so much at Christmas, and why we never learn; Part Two

How would you feel if your local supermarket offered you the option of a 20 per cent increase in the price of all your food purchases?

I know that I promised in the last post, that I would start to explain the “why” bit, but I thought that it might be appropriate for me to highlight a little bit more of the “what”, but bring in a bit of “why”. Does that make sense? No? Okay… read on… and if it is still confusing, just call me, and I’ll explain…

One of the big mistakes that humans make consistently, is a tendency to not be very good at predicting the future. Or maybe, it would be better put as an over-inflated sense of our accuracy in predicting the future.

So when it comes to planning our food consumption, we aren’t very good at knowing how much we will actually end up eating (or needing to eat) over an extended period, such as a week, or at a major event, such as Christmas.

What I mean, is that most of our food shopping (in the wealthy developed world) is done on an incidental basis, with little planning, and even when we do plan, we succumb to a whole range of other internal and external factors, which lead us to making not so great decisions.

We shop often, because (most of us) have easy access to food, and middle-class consumers (I hate using simplistic categories, but this will do for the moment), with a reasonable income, can afford to buy a whole range of foods that they don’t really need, but want. Marketing is very good at creating wants – and turning these wants into needs (more about this later).

So we often buy a lot more than we need.

At Christmas, this is accentuated. We purchase a lot more food, and eat a lot more, than we normally would – Australians will spend about $7.6 billion on food this Christmas, eat about 35 per cent more food than we would normally, and it is estimated that we will throw away around 20 percent of the food we purchase.

So, from an economic perspective (not adjusting for the 35 per cent gluttony factor), what we are doing is paying 20 per cent more (on average) than we should have. In other words, if you bought less, you would actually make a saving, and still have enough food for everyone.

To put that into a different frame, think about whether you would feel okay if your local supermarket said that you would have to pay 20 per cent more for your food – the opposite of a “sale”. You would be a little bit annoyed, wouldn’t you?

Now I fully understand that it is your prerogative, in an individualist society, to buy as much as you bloody well like, and you don’t need paternalistic academics, in their cosy little ivory towers, telling you how to live your life, but think about it. You are not only wasting food (thus putting undue pressure on the environment), you are also losing money.

The best way to avoid this, is to plan. But we rarely do.

This entry was posted in Consumer Behavior, Human Behavior, Marketing Strategy, Social Psychology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why we eat (and throw out) so much at Christmas, and why we never learn; Part Two

  1. Ray says:

    Good stuff Paul. I remember my pop used to serve and serve and just keep serving up until it hurt. I think some people just love on us that way. Its often a sign of demontrating love or a dedon’t to belong don’t you think?

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