Just start with few questions for coffee-addicted people: how many coffees do you take per day and how much sugar do you usually consume per coffee?
We all know that the world divides into two types of people: those who like their coffee natural, and those who like it sweet (sometimes very sweet).
If you happen to be in the second group, we have bad news for you. According to the WHO, sugar is one of the major causes of several diseases, especially obesity. Given that the limit of sugar that an adult male can ingest is about 50g per day (7-10 teaspoons of sugar), charging your coffee with extra sugar may not be the best choice for your health, especially if you drink more than simply one or two coffees per day.
Changing habits is easier in words than in action, but there is also good news for all sweet coffee lovers: several kinds of nudges have been developed to address the issue, and have the potential to find further applications in the food sector, for our health’s sake. Here are two simple but effective examples.
Do you like to take your coffee at the cafeteria?
Have you ever realised that every time you go to the cafeteria taking a coffee, a tea or a cappuccino, automatically you accompany it with one or two sugar bags?
A study conducted in Italy has investigated whether coffee consumers are aware of how much sugar they consume each time they take a break.
The behaviour of two groups of people has been monitored for 6 days – each one before and after reducing the weight of sugar in each packet from 7g to 4g. The research has shown that the reduction in sugar consumed per client is statistically significant.
This means that reducing the weight of sugar does not affect the number of packets clients take, as people tend to pick up a fixed number of packets out of habit.
Or are you just looking for a quick break?
Most of the times, busy students and workers prefer to just grab a coffee at the nearest vending machine. In this case, how often do they actually pay attention to choosing the amount of sugar?
Assuming that students do not change the default amount of sugar that is set by the machine (e.g. leaving the selection to 3 out of 5 units of sugar), a first simple way to reduce sugar consumption may be reducing the default level of sugar from 3 to 2. In this way, increasing sugar would be an active choice, that is likely not to happen. In fact, behavioural scientists have largely shown that people generally have a bias for maintaining the status quo.
A nudge has been hypothesized by Albert Gascon, a participant in a Nudge Competition on edx.org.
It consists of two intelligent strategies tested in a single nudge intervention.
Firstly, the choice of sugar may be put before the choice of the drink; secondly, instead of reporting “more sugar” and “less sugar”, the extremes of the scale may report the options “healthier” and “less healthy”. In this way, consumers are induced to pay more attention to their choice – instead of relying upon the default option – and are nudged towards a better choice through highlighting the consequences of their choices, that are too often not taken into consideration.