It’s new and improved!

Every time I’m at the grocery store, I find myself putting at least one “new” product into my cart. Why do I do this? What is the allure of these new products? A reporter over at Neuromarketing has recently been discussing studies that suggest humans are hardwired to find “new products (and even repackaged old products) attractive.” From the article:

Marketers know there are potent words in advertising, like “Free” and “New.” Neuroscientists have now determined that the appeal of “new” is hard-wired into our brains. Novelty activates our brain’s reward center, which may have been an evolutionary advantage to our ancestors as they encountered new food sources or other elements of survival.

It seems that products, particularly in grocery stores, have their packaging changed every other year. Whether it be a slight logo redesign or a new and improved taste, the object of these changes is to get the consumer to purchase the product. I must say I did recently buy a Milky Way candy bar partly because the package said it now has “more caramel.” Milky Ways are fairly far down on my list of all time favorite candy bars, but who can resist more caramel?

(Link via Guy Kawasaki)

19 Comments for “It’s new and improved!”

  1. posted by Eric on

    I wonder if this is something that changes with age. I almost never even notice packaging anymore, I want to get in and out quickly and pick up some tasty food for the week. I almost never deviate too much from a small set of “like” items when one has changed in price/cravings for this week.

  2. posted by Battra92 on

    I remember on Good Eats Alton Brown said that Americans tend to buy the same grocery items over and over despite there being new choices every day.

    Variety is the spice of life! Try something new once in a while. OCPD doesn’t mean you can’t have a new and different item once in a while.

  3. posted by Eric on

    That’s nice, but who has time and money to weed through the piles of “new and improved” products to find the diamond in the rough?

    This is America, if it’s too good they will discontinue it or jack up the price.

  4. posted by Emma on

    I’m not sure about this. My first response was to say I don’t buy or notice “new” products. I meal plan and have a shopping list to stick to so I don’t impulse buy. But I’m not sure. I’ll try to monitor myself next time I do a shop – see what “new” stuff gets through

  5. posted by Lauren on

    I’ve studied Marketing for the past few years and changing the packaging is usually a very effective technique for increasing sales of mature products. This is why Coke is constantly changing their packaging because it helps them stay ‘fresh’ in the eye of the consumer. I was just discussing this very issue with my stepdad yesterday and he found it annoying that his trusted brand of dogfood changed their packaging. He said it was harder to find in the grocery store since he couldn’t recognize the can.

  6. posted by Battra92 on

    Honestly, I don’t see it breaking the bank if I try a new brand of yogurt once in a while or give a new flavor of marinade a chance.

    I mean, who has the patience to eat the same old same old week after week?

  7. posted by Eric on

    People with budgets and children for one.

    I don’t eat the “same thing” every week, I find there is more than enough variety just mixing up the foodstuffs that I already buy on a regular basis. A new marinade, I have lemon and lime juice, wine, vinegar, and a cabinet full of spices… I think i can come up with something new myself.

  8. posted by leah on

    I eat the same thing every week. I’m not sick of it yet. 🙂 I’m not kidding. I buy the same things every time i’m at the store.

    i’m also guilty of buying a milky way because it said “more caramel” (i actually almost fell for it twice!) 🙂 …there is more caramel. 🙂

  9. posted by becoming minimalist on

    in a general sense, i wonder how this hard-wiring relates to the ever-increasing amount of stuff that seems to collect in my/our homes?

    is it the hard-wiring in my brain that causes me to buy a new spatula or new decoration or new shirt? even when the old works just fine…

  10. posted by Battra92 on

    Wow, such hostility. If that works for you, fine. I’m just thinking a lot of this “minimalism” is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  11. posted by Sheryl on

    Yes, I could certainly be swayed by a promise of “more caramel”, though that’s the LAST thing I need! 😉

  12. posted by laura on

    As a graphic designer, I think I tend to notice new redesigns and changes in packaging than most. Has anyone noticed the new Kraft packaging/lables change? From a design point, it’s nice.

    I, however, never got the “new and improved” thing. If it’s NEW how can it also then be IMPROVED??

  13. posted by alpha on


    I agree – even Alton has changed his ideas “STUFFING IS EVIL”.

    However – I am a sucker for his gadgets- I have bought the same, thermometer, kettle and colander. I’m saving up for the knives though.

  14. posted by jon on

    Look out for New, Improved which is still Traditional Recipe. You know it can’t be done. I know it can’t be done. Don’t tell that to a Marketeer.

  15. posted by battra92 on

    alpha – I think his book “Alton Brown’s Gear For Your Kitchen” is a good guide to know what you’ll need and what you won’t. It’s also good for those “Hey, I want gadget X but I don’t want to buy junk.”

    I think it was on Good Eats where I first heard the term unitasker.

  16. posted by Kris on

    I buy new stuff all the time. I’d never had Nutella … saw it, looked cool, bought it and now it’s a staple in our pantry. Same with mango chutney. Had never had it, bought it, now I can’t live without the stuff. I love trying new food items. I don’t know if this would be considered ‘improved’ but it’s certainly ‘new’ … and mango chutney is always an ‘improvement’ over ketchup.

  17. posted by ShopLittleGifts on

    interesting. i’m definitely a *new* thing searcher. it’s so exciting to discover something novel and different. i get what they mean by the sense of a reward – a sort of wow feeling, the heightened sensation of discovery.

  18. posted by Beverly D on

    I *hate* it when they change the packaging on my favorite stuff. Especially at the grocery. I look for things by the label, and I’m not going to buy it if it’s not right. So I’m standing there saying “is this what I usually get? Why did they change it? Is it any different? No? Then why is the package different?” But I’m not sure if it’s the same thing, so I spend a few frustrated minutes looking for my usual package then go ahead and buy the new one and hope that it’s the right thing. There are so many choices anyway, it’s enough to get a headache. You can’t just buy bread, you have to choose between 6 or so different types before you find what you’re looking for.

  19. posted by John S on

    Some types of things get better. Some get worse.

    Cars – better.
    Computers – better.
    Furniture – worse.
    Food – worse.

Comments are closed.