You are here: Home / News Release Archives / 2013 / March / Study Shows Consumers Value Fatter Wallets Over Thinner Waistlines

Study Shows Consumers Value Fatter Wallets Over Thinner Waistlines

Do your health goals take a back seat to your desire for a good deal? A recent study by Penn State Smeal College of Business marketing professor Karen Winterich finds that consumers will generally take advantage of "supersize" pricing, even if it means ignoring their goals to eat healthier.
March 4, 2013
Study Shows Consumers Value Fatter Wallets Over Thinner Waistlines

Karen Winterich

This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times on February 24, 2013.

Let’s say your New Year’s resolution this year was to decrease the amount of sugary soda you drink. But then, on a visit to your local convenience store, you realize you can get a large soda instead of a medium for just a few cents more. What do you do?

If you conveniently ignore your health goals and choose to get more bang for your buck by purchasing the larger soda, you’re in good — albeit, less healthy — company. A recent study conducted by Penn State Smeal College of Business marketing professor Karen Winterich and her colleague Kelly Haws, of Texas A&M’s Mays Business School, finds that in the face of supersize pricing, health-related goals generally take a back seat to our desire for a good deal.

According to Winterich and Haws, supersize pricing refers to the decreasing cost-per-unit as the quantity increases.

For example, you may find yourself doing calculations in the grocery store to determine if it’s a better deal to buy the 12-roll pack of toilet paper instead of the four-pack. In the case of purchases for immediate consumption, like fast food or fountain drinks, you are likely doing those same toilet paper calculations, seeking greater value even though it means you will spend more money and get more product than you originally wanted or needed. And unlike with toilet paper, you are likely to consume all that added value — in the form of extra calories — in one sitting.

“When we are faced with the decision to supersize our french fries, we are likely no longer focused only on health, but also on finances given the differential value provided by each size.”

“When we are faced with the decision to supersize our french fries, we are likely no longer focused only on health, but also on finances given the differential value provided by each size,” write the authors in their study, “When Value Trumps Health in a Supersized World,” which will be published this May in the Journal of Marketing. “Such pricing strategies not only lead to greater purchase and consumption, they do so by … decreasing the importance placed on health goals.”

The authors also demonstrate that supersized pricing, due to the increase in larger size purchases, does, in fact, lead to greater calorie consumption. Because lack of portion control was shown in separate studies to be one of the leading causes of obesity, supersize pricing of unhealthy foods — and the strong desire to bargain shop — may be having a negative impact on health and wellness.

Focus on health

There is, however, good news for consumers who want to keep their health on track. Winterich and Haws also found that situational health cues, such as posted calorie counts on menus at fast food restaurants, can keep health goals prominent in consumers’ minds.

Seeing just how many calories that large soda or order of French fries adds will remind consumers of health goals and New Year’s resolutions instead of letting them take a back seat to desire for greater value.

“Health cues can overcome the tendency to favor financial value over health in the presence of supersized pricing,” write Winterich and Haws.

Furthermore, supersize pricing can be a good thing when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Winterich and Haws found that supersized pricing also encourages upsizing of healthy foods as well as unhealthy ones.

“For healthy foods, consumers can increase their size choice without having to decrease their importance on health,” write Winterich and Haws.

In other words, go ahead and reap the financial rewards of supersizing, but instead of a giant soda, make it a giant salad.

Recent News
Penn State President Emeritus Rodney Erickson Joins Smeal Executive MBA Students in Celebration 25 Jul Penn State President Emeritus Rodney Erickson Joins Smeal Executive MBA Students in Celebration

About 30 students celebrated their completion of the Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program last month in a pre-commencement ceremony held at the Business Building on Penn State’s University Park campus, with former University president Rodney Erickson delivering the commencement speech.

Smeal's Multimedia Team Recognized for Providing Valuable Student Service 24 Jul

A group of Smeal College of Business staff members were recently recognized for their efforts to provide students with professional portraits for their LinkedIn profiles. The Penn State Information Technology Resource Responsibility award was granted to the Resource, Instruction, and Information Technology (RIIT) Group’s Multimedia Team.

Company Looks to Penn State Smeal for Next Generation Supply Chain Talent 23 Jul

The Penn State Smeal College of Business is one of only two schools from which Burlington Stores, a national off-price retailer headquartered in New Jersey, actively recruits for its Supply Chain Leader Development Program. This leadership program for supply chain graduates is an 18-month program that introduces new graduates to the various roles and responsibilities of leadership at the company.

Management and Organization's Gioia Reflects on GM Crisis 11 Jul

When GM began recalling vehicles in February because of an ignition-switch problem, the situation brought back early career memories for Denny Gioia. Currently, the Robert and Judith Klein Professor of Management and chair of the Department of Management and Organization at the Penn State Smeal College of Business, Gioia once worked as recall coordinator for Ford Motor Company.

Inaugural Executive MBA Leadership Forum Addresses Issues in Health Care 09 Jul

Early last month, the Penn State Smeal Executive MBA Program hosted its inaugural Senior Leadership Forum, an opportunity for current and prospective students as well as program alumni to come together to discuss business and leadership.

More Recent News... More Recent News...