A stick of gum may help if you want fresh breath, but a new Canadian study claims that simple act could also influence your shopping habits.

In a study published in the "Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services," researchers at the Ted Rogers School of Retail Management at Ryerson University say chewing gum may encourage customers to spend more time in a store.

"As people are chewing gum, they have this increased cognitive function, and that allows them to think more while they're in the store," Mark Lee, a professor and co-author of the study, said in an interview with CTV Toronto.

The researchers conducted five separate studies, with a desire to understand what stores can give to influence shoppers' behaviour.

The first four studies were conducted in a U.S. university's lab and involved 300 students. The researchers compared those students who were given gum to chew versus those who didn’t. The students were asked to perform tasks ranging from buying a book from an online outlet to buying gifts for family members and friends.

The students were also asked to write down their thoughts about the purchases or list the number of items they looked at before they made their purchase.

Those who were chewing gum were found to have spent more time browsing items and listed more thoughts about their purchases.

In the final study, 56 customers at a major grocery chain store were surveyed, with half given gum. Before the customers entered the store, they were asked to fill out a survey listing what they were considering purchasing.

Those who were chewing gum were found to have spent more time in the store and bought more items. However, they didn't spend more money than the customers who weren't given gum.

But researchers did discover the amount of gum is key. Too much gum and the benefits are lost.

"Now they're focusing too much on the gum itself and the chewing task itself, rather than just kind of looking at the store," said Lee.

Stores have long looked to influence customers' shopping habits, using methods such as colour choices or music.

"Sometimes they play slower music to keep you l HL: Chewing gum may encourage you to shop more: study

onger in the store and if they want you to kind of hurry up, they play some fast songs," Ksenia Sergueeva, a graduate student at Ryerson University and a co-author of the study.

Researchers suggest retailers offer customers a sample of gum, and target those who have the time to browse and are not being distracted by family or friends.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Scott Lightfoot