Why are Staples and Bed Bath & Beyond selling junk food?

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Food, mostly junk food, is showing up in unlikely non-food related places, and this increasing trend may be making a fat nation even fatter. In the olden days (the 1980s), if you wanted to get groceries, you went to the supermarket. Today, there are many more options…

And there are good ones. We now can food shop at uber healthy places like health stores, co-ops and farmers markets. But places like drug stores, office supply chains, and home furnishings retailers also started selling food. Junk food that it, because it fits their needs: conveniently packaged, ready to eat, processed foods appeal to the hungry customers via its convenience.

The trend started with drug stores and a simple rationale: If customers come in for non food related items, chances are they’ll also buy cheap, ready to munch on items. If they come for food items, chances are they’ll leave with some of whatever else is sold there (batteries, greeting cards, aspirin, toothpaste… you name it). Everything is smartly shelved so that categories cross over one another. Spread out through the store and viciously staring from the cash register, non-needed food-like items sell very well. Two fearless CVS and Walgreens stores, in a move clearly proving the tactic works, have even recently applied with the district to be designated a grocery store, so they can sell beer and wine under the city’s liquor zoning laws.

Now Staples too? OK, they do sell the snacks you would find in an office break room or in a bowl on the secretary’s desk: beef sticks, salty nuts, chips and crackers and non-perishable, ready-to-eat meals like Cup-o-Soup. All things you have been able to buy in bulk on their website for a while. But still, this is all un-needed junk food. And them naming a small portion of their offering “healthy snacks” just makes that point.

Even further stretching the idea… Bed Bath & Beyond? The place you go to pick up towels and dish sets started adding food items from Cost Plus/World Market in 2010 and bought the specialty brand in 2012. This is marketing genius in action: Next to the Dutch oven display, you might see a separate configuration of meals you can actually cook in that Dutch oven. And the customer leaves with both items. Note: we are not talking healthy foods here either.

The issue with all this? In a nearly $600 billion supermarket industry, there is room for many more than just grocers, but these trends are not the ones we need:

  • Customers buy more than planned and in many cases, things they don’t even need
  • Customers buy more junk food, which they already eat too much of

Obviously, once purchased, the food gets eaten,  junk food is not part of the food waste problem! And people eating the wrong kind of food is a problem, a health problem.

Credit photo: Urban Jacksonville/Flickr

La Vie En Green, food stamp


* Up for some thought-sharing on this topic?  

In a world where profit is king, stores would do anything to keep you longer in, so you can buy more. Price does matter and  junk food is cheap (after all, we get what we pay for). Everything too overly salted or sweetened is appealing to our taste buds in the first place, if it is also conveniently packaged and inexpensive, well it makes us feel hungry. And $1 or $2 is not going to make a difference. Except, they add up. Both the dollars and the negative effects of bad food choices on the health, setting us up for more long term financial and health problems than we can imagine today.

. Couldn’t there be strict laws about what each store can be and sell instead of always blurrier limits between stores’ offerings?

. Do you think sticking-to-a-strict-list-when-grocery-shopping experience could convince, after one month and clear budget savings, that it is the best way to avoid unneeded temptations and purchases?

. If you feel that you need to cut down on junk food, would you feel able to do it?

. Where do you buy your food?

Let us know… 

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