Hayden Peek aims to tackle obesity with supermarket receipt graphics


Supermarket receipts could introduce graphics showing nutritional information to help solve the "obesity epidemic", proposes UK designer Hayden Peek.

Peek suggests using a similar system to the coloured tabs found on some food packaging. The nutritional data would be tallied up and transferred onto receipts to give shoppers an overview of how healthy their basket or trolley is.

"Health or diet awareness needs to become a part of everyday life, and so I targeted an everyday object on which to help people understand their diet – the supermarket receipt," Peek said.

Five tabs on the bottom of the paper receipt would give information about calories, sugar, fat, saturated fat and salt.

Rather than displaying numerical values, each would simply explain whether the total shop is low, medium or high, and use traffic-light colours as bold indicators.

Hayden Peek's proposal for a solution for obesity

"With this information, the complexity of the issue is dismantled and in one simple graphic anybody can get a good idea of how healthy their diet is," said Peek.

Obesity is increasing worldwide, and Peek believes that designers like himself have a responsibility to help tackle the issue.

"The World Health Organisation predicts that 74 per cent of men and 64 per cent of women in the UK will be overweight or obese by 2030," he said. "Design can save the world. I firmly believe that. We can't help but be shaped by the information, objects and spaces we encounter and interact with."

"It's with this belief that I set about trying to solve the obesity epidemic," Peek added.

Hayden Peek's proposal for a solution for obesity
Peek collaged news articles to highlight the issue of poor diet and health, which his receipt graphics aim to address

The designer's aim is for major British supermarkets to adopt his proposal. His graphics could be paired with apps to help customers learn about how to improve their eating habits.

"The supermarket could facilitate these changes with a set of digital tools and resources that help customer's choose a healthier diet," Peek said.

"To have a real impact, Tesco's, ASDA, Sainsbury's, Co-op, Waitrose, Lidl, Aldi or M&S would have to introduce it," he continued. "The government could make it law, but that seems unlikely considering all the bullsh*t around the sugar tax proposals."

Previously, designers Antrepo created conceptual packaging for well-known supermarket products by stripping back the existing graphics in stages, then asked consumers which they preferred.

  • SteveLeo

    So if it’s all green I can eat the receipt?

  • Gavin

    I like this idea a lot. My only problem with it is when I buy my staples – like a tub of salt or a bottle of olive oil – it would surely distort the whole thing that week, to the point of it being useless.

    • Hayden Peek

      Hi Gavin, this is an issue for sure and in an earlier version I attempted to address it directly on the receipt, but it started to make the idea too complicated.

      To my mind the complexity of how nutritional data is currently communicated is part of the problem, it’s too difficult or time consuming for people to understand. I think the solution would be to make the database/software that powered the print out ‘smart’ so it could account for staples like you mention. What do you think?

      • Gavin

        I think that would help. A lot of the issues are complicated, and I can’t think of an answer for them, but balancing out the spikes in the results would be a start.

        The general idea here is great, and I can see it being a positive. Getting a receipt that clearly tells me…’look, you’ve bought a lot of cream cakes you pig’, in nice, clear graphics is the kind of thing that makes me take a look at myself every so often.

        It definitely has legs.

      • William D

        Perhaps the supermarket could keep a tally over time – say a month -–so it’s averaged out, attached to the loyalty card, for example?

  • William D

    Seems to be flawed. You don’t buy a bag of sugar, for example, on the same frequency as the vegetables. This would completely distort things!

    Are you quantifying it with an entire packet of ham mixed with single-meal items. I just dont think it works at all. It looks good in a design magazine, but…

  • stephanie

    Interesting idea, although having it on the receipt makes it a bit of a moot point since you’ve already purchased everything.

  • Durgen Jensen

    Great idea! It’s probably not THE solution to obesity but it would definitely get people thinking and that is a great start.

    • Hayden Peek

      EXACTLY. Getting people thinking is the key. People aren’t just blind to all the healthy eating information and resources out there. Research shows that people are often blind to obesity itself. For instance, parents often have difficulty acknowledging their child’s obesity.

      This idea was designed specifically to try and cure this curious blindness and give everyone a clear overview of their diet. One that can’t be ignored.

      If day after day, week after week, month after month, shop after shop every receipt is showing red graphics people will be smart enough to start questioning their food choices.

      Supermarkets are in the ideal position to help their customers make better food choices.

    • Invar Vigandun

      How would it “get people thinking”? It tells us nothing other than what we know already. When I pick up a chocolate bar or a cucumber in the supermarket, I know which is what. I know their nutritional values – people know what they’re eating.

      But knowing what’s regarded as unhealthy foods doesn’t make people stop buying them. Colours on the recipe would do nothing but tell me: “By the way, we the government think you’re too dumb to know what you’re eating.”

  • H-J

    Maybe they could print warning pictures of morbidly obese people and amputees’ with diabetes on overly fat or sweet products, just like they do on cigarettes in some countries.

  • Mikey D

    I wonder how they would differentiate between a household of one or two to a family of five or six, for example.

    I can see this working better for people who buy online, where they’d have that sort of data.

  • jackexe

    Whilst I think this is a great step in the way of tackling obesity, the fundamentals of how we shop have changed. Who does a full weekly shop anymore?

    • Kevin

      I do. But it would work a lot better with today’s fundamentals of grocery shopping. If you just buy your food and drinks for one day, you get direct feedback.

    • Natalia

      I do, I shop almost only on Saturdays. However, one week I will get a full supply of pasta, rice or crisps and the next it would be veggies, tea and household cleaners. Not very accurate I’d say.

  • aelena74

    While you are at it, make this a built-in feature of those pesky scan and go handsets… at least get information before the checkout.

  • Krustabred

    Interesting idea, can’t help thinking it’s too negative? Could also measure good stuff, vitamins, omega3, protein etc. Imagine if there was a discount incentive for a healthier shop (although would never happen, not in the interest of corporations or big pharmaceuticals etc…)

  • Kay

    That is certainly a rather archaic way to look at the issue.

    For starters most modern scientific studies on the issue go at length to explain the problem not being in calories nor the macro nutrients, but rather the quality of the food and its sources and the vilification of essential nutrients like fat or carbs.

    Fat is not bad for you as it is essential for nutrient transfer, carbs are absolutely fundamental for our daily energy production and cholesterol is no longer even considered anything to worry about as it is unrelated to blood cholesterol.

    How the food was grown and farmed is key to how it transforms in our bodies. Then you have the issue of preservatives, GMO, transfats, sugars, etc. All of these are bigger contributors to obesity. A person buying a fatty cut of grass-fed steak with some organic vegetables and olive oil for a nice evening meal will probably see the same colour warnings as someone whose buying a ready-made pizza with tons of questionably sourced cheese and red coloured objects that look like pepperoni on it. This might deter people already shopping well.

    Regardless of that though, this will also be meaningless as people don’t shop for a single meal most of the time, they shop randomly. So the indicators like this serve little or no purpose.

    I am very concerned that our approach to fighting obesity is based on the wrong idea on nutrition. Counting calories is great, I do that, but it should only be something that comes on top of an awareness that food has to be whole, organic, fresh and ethically sourced. We need to cook our way out of this mess, and thus we need to teach people the basics of getting back into the kitchen and making their own healthy meals.

    Scare tactics don’t work, they will make the issue worse. Trust me, I have a very personal experience with the issue and I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t know.

  • Tarquin

    I believe that people do, on the whole, understand what foods are “good” and what foods are “bad”. I doubt, very much, that someone who cannot be bothered trying to understand the fairly simple ubiquitous traffic-light system found on supermarket packaging will examine their receipt for nutritional information.

    Furthermore, the customer has already purchased the items at that point; what are they supposed to do when they gaze down to check their nectar point balance and discover a row of red icons – toss their weekly shop into a food bank?

  • Diva

    This is a horrible suggestion. You simply don’t know what the nutritional requirements are for anyone who’s shopping at your store, how many people they’re shopping for, what kind of events they are providing food for, etc.

    This is massive overreach from a grocery store. A grocery store should provide you access to food, and absolutely remove itself from the business of judgment over that food. If a grocery wants to be moralistic, it can simply choose not to carry certain kinds of foods, but to offer the food and then judge someone for buying it? What a foolish and shameful notion!

    A grocery is not a doctor. It simply has absolutely no business involving itself in the private medical affairs of its patrons. This only serves to shame individuals whose diet cannot conform to the food morals of the person creating this. It’s ableist, classist, and promotes judgment of others’ choices. I can’t see anything positive here. I just can’t.