Epicurean Nudging: about smaller portions and more enjoyment at mealtimes

Research conducted by INSEAD professor Pierre Chandon on the topic of "Epicurean Nudging" reveals how pleasure can be a path to healthier eating. Food marketing can contribute to aligning health, economy, and enjoyment.
15 May, 2023 by
Epicurean Nudging: about smaller portions and more enjoyment at mealtimes
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

What is "Epicurean Nudging"?
"Epicurean Nudging" is based on the research on "nudges," for which Richard Thaler received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2017. The idea is not to force people into certain behaviors through restrictions, taxes, or fines, but to steer them towards healthier choices, such as in their diet, through small changes in the context, while maintaining their freedom of choice. "Epicurean" refers to this type of nudging because it is in line with the teachings of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. He wrote to his friend Menoeceus 2,300 years ago that a wise person does not choose the largest quantity of food but rather what tastes best to them.

What can we do for a healthier diet and more enjoyment?
"Consumers have a much stronger awareness of what they eat than how much they eat. They simply want a normal size. The problem is that 'normal' no longer means anything in today's supersizing trends," says Pierre Chandon. In a fast-food restaurant, for example, one has the choice between a small, medium, or large cup, according to the L'Oréal professor of Marketing, Innovation, and Creativity at INSEAD University in a TEDx talk. Even the kids' size in a fast-food restaurant today is larger than what was considered the normal size for adults not too long ago.

According to Chandon, a simple solution would be to reintroduce a smaller portion into the menu. Even if no one chooses the new option, the previously small size would then become the new medium size, which would correspond to consumers' perception of the "normal size." And more consumers would be willing to buy the "new" normal size and pay more for it. The restaurant could thus earn more without actually selling more in terms of quantity.

However, Epicurean Nudging is not just about reducing portion sizes and making reasonable amounts appear normal again. Essentially, it is about making people understand that smaller portions are better not only for health reasons but also for the sake of enjoyment. The pleasure of eating is not the sum of the pleasure of each individual bite. It does not increase with quantity but with quality, according to Chandon. "The food industry needs to stop behaving as if it were in the energy business, like oil and gas: wanting to earn more by selling more calories to more people, more often. Instead, the food industry should consider transitioning to an Epicurean business model, where food is not fuel but pleasure," says the marketing expert. Rather than earning more by selling more, companies could generate more revenue by selling less food but more enjoyment—a triple win for health, business, and pleasure.

Learn more about "Epicurean Nudging" and adopting a more enjoyable approach to food at the 3rd International Food Innovation Conference at the GDI. Pierre Chandon will explain how food marketing can help consumers make better decisions on 21 June 2023. Sign up now!

Share this post