Study: People Who Use Reusable Shopping Bags Indulge

Jul 12, 2015

Duke study shows those who shop with reusable bags buy healthy food and indulge in snack food as a reward.
Credit www.usda.gov

A new study out of Duke University shows people shopping with reusable bags often make surprising choices.

Bryan Bollinger is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. He says they examined the habits of close to 900 families who shopped at a California supermarket. Bollinger says here’s what happened if they shopped with their own, reusable bag.

“So while you were more likely to buy organic versions of products and organic produce, you were also more likely to indulge yourself," said Bollinger.

Yes, shoppers treated themselves with ice cream, cookies, chips, you name it, if they used their own bag and also bought organic items.

Bollinger says the findings could be significant for store managers in encouraging shoppers to bring their own bags and in the placement of store products.

“From a consumer perspective, we are not telling consumers to either bring reusable bags or not.  We would hope this finding doesn’t reduce the use of reusable bags. But you might take note of the fact that your behavior might change," said Bollinger.

Bollinger says even when they told people they were in a shopping environment and there was a reusable bag in their cart, "shoppers were more likely to buy indulgent items."

This report has garnered a lot of attention in recent days.  It was used during the weekend of July 11-12, 2015 as a quirky news question on National Public Radio's news quiz show, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!"

The findings of the study - "BYOB:  How Bringing your Own Shopping Bags Lead to Treating Yourself and the Environment," can be found in the Journal of Marketing, published by the American Marketing Association.