Apples vs. chips: an experiment into food behavior

Last week I conducted an informal experiment at work. This the kind of 'scientific' experiment that J. classifies as needless and silly, since the general conclusion is quite obvious. My reasons to do that experiment were:
a) People could surprise you with their behavior,  and b) mainly, because it's fun to do experiments, c) I had a grant (meaning the raw material was paid for)

The main motivation was  to determine if people make good food choices when such choices are available. As a graduate student I often found that when stuck in the lab late in the evening or  night the only 'food' option was  the vending machine mostly full of all kinds of crappy snacks. The kind of snacks that Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi food has decided to re-brand as 'fun for you'. Their other labels are 'good for you' and 'better for you'. Of course, the irony of Pepsi marketing itself as a health-food company and the relativistic nature of their labels is inescapable.  Another disturbing story that I read was that experiments on rats have shown that babies could acquire a taste for junk food in-utero.(In review of Lindstrom's book on advertising in the Economist).

At some point, I wrote to the President and the authorities to make such healthy snacks available. The University did make this available and called it M-healthy. They were not not that healthy, but better than just chips and other crap that's usually in vending machines.

Yet, it begs the question - do people actually want to eat healthy?  When polled people  it is unlikely that anyone would say something other than - "I want to eat healthy, if such choices were available." Though what people say and what they do is quite different. The actual pattern of behaviors exposes their 'revealed preferences'.

The question is that faced with an apple or a potato chip what does one do? More honestly speaking, what would I do?

The Experiment
In the company lunch room where people leave stuff to share/ give-away I placed the following items last Monday morning:
18 apples ( 11 Red Delicious, 4 Fuji, 3 Granny Smiths)
3 bags of chips (regular, multigrain and tortilla chips without any salsa)
2 packets of crackers

Null Hypothesis:
All free food is equal and will be eaten in equal amounts.

The chips would be all eaten.
Apples would not be as popular.
Crackers would be more popular than apples


Wednesday: Two bags of chips were finished. Tortilla chips were not. 13/18 apples were eaten
Thursday: All bags of chips were gone. Packet of crackers gone. 11/18 apples eaten
Monday: One packet of crackers remained. 10/18 apples remained. Interestingly, all the Granny Smith apples were gone.

It must be noted that the experimenter also was part of the experiment and ate 1 apple and some amount of chips to keep the consumption roughly equal.

Possible explanations and factors at play.

1) Chips are tastier and pound for pound offer more calories and are a better 'investment'.
2) Apples have a higher 'adoption barrier', as they have to be washed, either cut, or bit into and it can be messy with juicy apples
3) Red Delicious is not so delicious. If there were more Granny Smiths, then the ratio could have been different leading to different conclusions.
4) People bring their own apples, and not chips and were supplementing their diet with the chips that were laid out.
5) Chips don't go bad, and apples do. So after Day 3, the apples were less appealing.
6) Eating chips requires less commitment, meaning that chips can be eaten in small quantities (one chip to a dozen or more), but you have to commit to eating an entire apple.
7) Corollary to the above: you may not be hungry for an entire apple. In a sense, an apple will actually increase your caloric intake in large quanta.
8) The chips were of better quality than the apples. The experimenter admits that this was not controlled for.

I leave that you to gentle reader.( I would hate to give it away). I am sure J. would appreciate my silence and absence of analysis).

What happens next?
I am curious to know what is the half-life of the apples. They still stand at 11.

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