Grocery stores can be overwhelming for our senses since there’s so much to see, touch, smell, hear, and taste. Grocery stores like to take advantage of this over-stimulation and will use it to their advantage by trying to get you to buy more products. Understanding how grocery stores subtly influence your buying habits by manipulating your senses can help you shop better and save money at the grocery store. Here are some common ways that they do so.

Free Samples

For instance, have you ever been to a grocery store or wholesale club that offers free samples? The stores are hoping that by offering you free samples you’ll be more likely to buy whatever product is being advertised. Like that delicious sample of chocolate cake? Why not buy the entire cake, then?

Bakery Smells

Have you ever walked by the bakery and had your stomach rumble at the smell of freshly baked bread or pies? Stores are hoping that the smell will make you hungry, which will make you stock up on additional food. It’s proven that those who are hungry tend to spend more money at the grocery store, after all.

Display Cases

Sometimes it’s hard to resist the sight of the perfectly made and decorated cakes, treats, sandwiches, and other items that are stuck behind a display case. Have you ever made an impulse decision to buy one of those items just because it looked so good that you just had to have it? If so, you’ve had your senses tricked by the grocery store. They tend to put their most delicious looking items behind display cases in the hope that you’ll make an impulse decision and shell out the money to buy those items.


Does your grocery store place fresh flowers close to the beginning of the store? If so, they’re hoping that the fragrance of the flowers will brighten your mood. Flowers tend to put people in pleasant moods (those who aren’t allergic, of course), and the more pleasant your mood, the more likely you are to spend more money. At least that’s what grocery stores are hoping for.


Have you ever noticed that a lot of food packaging is red, yellow, or blue? Those are apparently the colors most noticeable by consumers. For instance, when you think of Cheerios, you think of a bright yellow box. Some retailers will try to sway you to buy their product by going with neon color packaging or by putting a famous singer, athlete, or movie star on the front of the box as well. Signs

Some stores will place gigantic signs on the side of the building or on their windows so that their sale items stick in your mind. If you see a window size sign proclaiming a 2 for $5 deal on strawberries, you’re not likely to forget that, are you? Additionally, signs are sometimes portrayed in bright colors with bold words or numbers so that the information jumps out at you.


Have you noticed that Oreos seem to be a lot smaller than they used to? Or maybe that your bag of chips has less chips than it did a few years ago? Retailers tend to use big or fancy packaging to obscure the fact that they’re not giving you the full product. A bigger chip bag might seem like you’re getting more chips for the price, but once you open it up, you’ll find that about a quarter of the bag is nothing but air.


Grocery stores will also try and sway you with the way they word their advertisements or descriptions. People are more likely to pick up something that’s described as “savory”, “delicious”, or “mouthwatering” than they are something described as “bland”. Grocery stores have also picked up on the health craze and will sometimes place emphasis on words such as “organic”, “low calorie”, or “fat-free”. This is their way of manipulating you into buying a product based on its seemingly truthful description.


You’ve probably listened to or watched an advertisement for a grocery store where the food was described as absolutely delicious or was pictured as something that would melt in your mouth. The TV or internet ad might show happy people and bright lights with overly colorful produce. The radio ad might have people sighing or gushing about the grocery store’s mouth-watering food or wonderful prices. The store might even have a memorable jingle that gets stuck in your mind. You might not be paying full attention to these ads, but they’re designed to stick with you and keep the grocery store at the forefront of your mind.

Hot Bar

More and more stores such as Wegman’s and Whole Foods are offering hot bars in addition to their grocery stores. You can buy full meals that are priced by weight. These are usually located near the registers at the grocery store hopes that you’ll be so hungry by the end of the shopping trip that you’ll spend even more money buying something you can eat immediately.

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