Sensory Appeal and Routines Beat Health Messages and Visibility Enhancements: Mixed-Methods Analysis of a Choice-Architecture Intervention in a Workplace Cafeteria

Eeva Rantala (Corresponding Author), Elina Järvelä-Reijonen, Kati Pettersson, Janne Laine, Paula Vartiainen, Johanna Närväinen, Jussi Pihlajamäki, Kaisa Poutanen, Pilvikki Absetz, Leila Karhunen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Easier recognition and enhanced visibility of healthy options supposedly increase healthy choices, but real-world evidence remains scarce. Addressing this knowledge gap, we promoted nutritionally favourable foods in a workplace cafeteria with three choice-architectural strategies—priming posters, point-of-choice nutrition labels, and improved product placement—and assessed their effects on visual attention, food choices, and food consumption. Additionally, we developed a method for analysing real-world eye-tracking data. The study followed a pretest–posttest design whereby control and intervention condition lasted five days each. We monitored visual attention (i.e., total number and duration of fixations) and food choices with eye tracking, interviewed customers about perceived influences on food choices, and measured cafeteria-level food consumption (g). Individual-level data represents 22 control and 19 intervention participants recruited at the cafeteria entrance. Cafeteria-level data represents food consumption during the trial (556/589 meals sold). Results indicated that the posters and labels captured participants’ visual attention (~13% of fixations on defined areas of interest before food choices), but the intervention had insignificant effects on visual attention to foods, on food choices, and on food consumption. Interviews revealed 17 perceived influences on food choices, the most common being sensory appeal, healthiness, and familiarity. To conclude, the intervention appeared capable of attracting visual attention, yet ineffective in increasing healthier eating. The developed method enabled a rigorous analysis of visual attention and food choices in a natural choice setting. We discuss ways to boost the impact of the intervention on behaviour, considering target groups’ motives. The work contributes with a unique, mixed-methods approach and a real-world setting that enabled a multi-dimensional effects evaluation with high external validity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3731
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Choice Behavior
  • Food Preferences
  • Food Services
  • Humans
  • Meals
  • Workplace
  • workplace cafeteria
  • mixed methods
  • health promotion
  • nutrition
  • eye tracking
  • choice architecture
  • food choice


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