People choose healthy food to make a good impression when they are around others from different social groups, researchers have said.

A study found that a desire to impress others can very often lead people to opt for health food and has an impact on consumer choice.

The research, co-authored by Bayes Business School in London, involved around 1,000 people, with experiments carried out in a large American city and university.

The team found that an individual was less likely to pick an unhealthy snack when in the presence of someone from a different race or from a different university.

Other experiments backed up the findings that being with someone from a different social group played a role in what food was selected.

In one study, a group of students were offered either M&Ms or raisins as a snack. Only 12% opted for the raisins when with someone from their own university, but this figure more than doubled to 31% when in the presence of someone from a different university.

Now the researchers say that the social benefits of healthy choices could be used to promote a healthy diet.

Dr Janina Steinmetz, Associate Professor of Marketing at Bayes, said: “We know that food plays an important role in social life and consumers often make inferences about others’ traits and characteristics based on their food choices.

“Our research shows that we can use this important role of food for consumer welfare if we highlight that healthy food is not only good for consumers, but also helps them to impress others.

“These findings could be very significant to those hoping to improve healthy eating practices in the UK because they open a new avenue to promote the benefits of healthy eating: It’s good for you and your health, and it’s also good for making a positive impression.”

The study has been published in the journal Psychology & Marketing.

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