One of every 10 grocery items people buy goes unused

November 30, 1999

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - In one case, a can of sardines spent more than 20 years being passed from grandmother to mother to daughter. In another, a family packed, moved, and unpacked unwanted grocery items during five relocations.

"Nearly everyone is guilty of purchasing products they never use," writes University of Illinois business professor Brian Wansink. These abandoned products gradually migrate farther back on the shelf until they become almost invisible. Yet the money spent purchasing these dusty relics is not trivial - as much as 12 percent of all grocery items wind up as "cabinet castaways," Wansink reports.

To find out why consumers buy products they never use, the U. of I. professor surveyed 412 homemakers in five states. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed were between 35 and 50, more than two-thirds had children, 58 percent were college graduates and 71 percent were Anglo-Americans.

His results were surprising. While advertising is commonly blamed for convincing people to buy products they don't need, advertising, trial purchases, product sales and impulse buying accounted for only 16 percent of the total number of unused items. By contrast, fully 70 percent of those surveyed said they had purchased a castaway for a specific reason in mind.

"The leading reason why a product was never used was because consumers claimed the desired situation had not yet arisen," Wansink writes in the December issue of the Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences. This involved items purchased for a specific occasion, such as a holiday meal for future guests, or for a specific purpose, such as removing wine stains from a carpet.

Another 20 percent of the respondents said they did not use the product because it was "inconvenient." In follow-up focus groups, Wansink discovered that inconvenience often meant taking too much time. "When we buy unused products, such as the ingredients to make a dessert, it is often a result of our overly ambitious expectations of having enough time to prepare the recipe," he said.

In some cases, the consumer had simply forgotten about the item. Even when reminded of it, though, few respondents had any concrete plans to use it. "They simply expected that the original bygone usage situation would again present itself."

To help consumers save money and reduce clutter, Wansink offers the following suggestions:
-end-


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related Family Articles from Brightsurf:

The key to happiness: Friends or family?
Think spending time with your kids and spouse is the key to your happiness?

Graduates of family medicine residencies are likely to enter and remain in family medicine
This study provides an overview of the characteristics of physicians who completed family medicine residency training from 1994 to 2017.

Engaging in family meals starts with healthy family communication
Engaging in family meals may be a matter of improving communication and support at home.

Artificial intelligence and family medicine: Better together
Researcher at the University of Houston are encouraging family medicine physicians to actively engage in the development and evolution of artificial intelligence to open new horizons that make AI more effective, equitable and pervasive.

New study confirms value of family meals
A new study published in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB) builds on years of previous research studies and demonstrates the value of family meals.

Family members' emotional attachment limits family firm growth
New research led by Lancaster University Management School's Centre for Family Business shows family-related considerations often trump a desire to grow and expand in family firms.

A new member in AIE family
Three molecules based on tetraphenyl-1,3-butadienes (TPBs) showed aggregation-induced emission (AIE) characteristics and sensitive conformational properties, in which the emission wavelengths could be changed in different states, attributed to the phenyl groups at the 4-position of the 1,3-butadienes.

Shaking up the sloth family tree
New studies by two research teams challenge decades of accepted scientific opinion concerning the evolutionary relationships of tree sloths and their extinct kin.

Family crucial to orca survival
Orcas live in stable, structured social groups. And their survival directly depends on it.

Family dynamics: Molecules from the same family have different effects in cancer prognosis
Researchers at Hiroshima University have found that different levels of two molecules of the same family -- TIMP-1 and TIMP-4 -- can influence prognosis of liposarcoma.

Read More: Family News and Family Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.