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Keywords:

  • consumer behavior;
  • diet;
  • food packaging;
  • health;
  • marketing;
  • mindless eating;
  • obesity;
  • public policy;
  • slim by design

Food marketing is often singled out as the leading cause of the obesity epidemic. The present review examines current food marketing practices to determine how exactly they may be influencing food intake, and how food marketers could meet their business objectives while helping people eat healthier. Particular attention is paid to the insights provided by recently published studies in the areas of marketing and consumer research, and those insights are integrated with findings from studies in nutrition and related disciplines. The review begins with an examination of the multiple ways in which 1) food pricing strategies and 2) marketing communication (including branding and food claims) bias food consumption. It then describes the effects of newer and less conspicuous marketing actions, focusing on 3) packaging (including the effects of package design and package-based claims) and 4) the eating environment (including the availability, salience, and convenience of food). Throughout, this review underscores the promising opportunities that food manufacturers and retailers have to make profitable “win-win” adjustments to help consumers eat better.