As the number of nutrition apps grows, obesity rates are still climbing. A London-based designer thinks we're getting the right information in the wrong place: If apps or public health campaigns aren't part of everyday life for most people, then maybe the data should be somewhere else.
His solution is a simple graphic that would print at the bottom of every supermarket receipt, with color-coded symbols for things such as calories, sugar, and saturated fat. If there's a problem in a category, it shows up as red.
"Numbers are too technical and honestly, who really understands what two grams of sugar or 845 calories means?" says British designer Hayden Peek. "Who’s got time to calculate all these numbers? Numbers get ignored. It’s simply too much work. Life is busy."
While someone buying ice cream probably already knows they could be making better choices, the graphic could help point out subtler trends in a full cart of groceries, and the feedback on every receipt could act as a reminder of any problems.
"People are free to buy whatever food they like, but imagine a young mum who shops for her family," says Peek. "Week after week, receipt after receipt, the graphics stay red. How long could she ignore this information? How long before it prompts her into action to make some changes?"
Supermarkets could pull the information from databases they may already have. "Supermarkets are no strangers to data," he says. "They are experts at using customer data—from store loyalty schemes and in-store/online behavior—to maximize sales. This idea simply invites them to use data in a new way."
If some stores use black-and-white printers for receipts, the design could be adapted to show the same information in shades of gray.
Peek hopes that a major supermarket will want to take on the idea. "It’s within the supermarket’s interest to keep their customers alive and loyal for as long as possible," he says. "I believe the first major retailer to step up and treat their customers with this kind of respect and facilitate better food choices has a lot to gain."