Location of fruit and veg in shops influences healthy eating

By June Shannon Nutrition News   |   19th Oct 2018

Making fruit and vegetables more accessible increases sales

Simply moving where fresh fruit and vegetables are placed in a shop can increase their sale and act as a nudge to young people to eat healthier, new research has suggested.

The study, by researchers from Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick in the UK, found that making fruit and vegetables more accessible in shops can lead to a 15 per cent increase in sales.

The finding follows analysis of purchases from Rootes Grocery Store – a shop on campus at the University of Warwick, in which fruit and vegetables were moved closer to the shop’s entrance.

The location of the produce was changed with no advertising or messaging added to encourage customers – suggesting that a simple “nudge” can encourage increased fruit and vegetable consumption.

The research, led by Dr Oyinlola Oyebode of Warwick Medical School, was conducted only after the researchers had heard about the changes and were keen to investigate whether they had had any effect on the amount of fruit and vegetables customers purchased.

The researchers collected data from the shop tills from January 2012 to July 2017 to examine sales before, during and after changes to the store’s layout.

The increase in fruit and vegetables sales following their new location was maintained over time.

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In January 2015, fruit and vegetables were moved from the back of the store to the aisle closest to the entrance and an entrance-facing display increased their accessibility. In April 2016, the entrance-facing display of fruit and vegetables was replaced with a chiller cabinet so that fruit and vegetables remained more accessible than when they were at the back of the store.

According to the data, after the layout changes there was an increase in the percentage of the store’s total sales that were fruit and vegetables, both in terms of items sold and by value of total sales. Customers bought approximately 15 per cent more fruit and vegetables than would have been expected without the intervention.

The researchers also found that the increase in fruit and vegetables sales following their new location was maintained over time – meaning that such a change may be a way of improving the diets of young adults, at a time when evidence shows they are eating less fruit and vegetables.

This suggests that a statistically significant and maintained increase in fruit and vegetable purchases by young adults can be achieved through “nudge” techniques and without the need for advertising or overt message campaigns, the study found.

Commenting on the research Dr Oyebode said: “We looked at whether a change in the lay-out of a campus supermarket changed students’ purchasing and we found that it did. Making the fruit and vegetables more accessible increased the amount of fruit and vegetables that were purchased.

“This is exciting because, while we all know eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, supporting people to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption has been more complicated.

“This “nudge” intervention in a young adult population, is particularly appropriate because it doesn’t restrict choice, and it doesn’t require any conscious action by the young adult.”

"Research is only starting to come to light around how healthy food placement influences our food choices,"

Sarah Noone, Dietitian , Irish Heart Foundation

According to Sarah Noone, Dietitian with the Irish Heart Foundation, “This study adds to the research around how manipulating the placement and availability of healthier foods such as vegetables and fruit in supermarkets can influence our choices. Marketers have been using this technique for a long time to encourage us to buy certain products, however research is only starting to come to light around how healthy food placement influences our food choices. Although promising to see in this study how the placement and availability of fruit and vegetables increased purchasing, while we are still bombarded with slick marketing for foods high in fat, salt and sugar it is unlikely that placement of fruit and vegetables alone will sway our choices and influence or diets and rising obesity levels.”

The research, Choice architecture modifies fruit and vegetable purchasing in a university campus grocery store: time series modelling of a natural experiment, is published by BMC Public Health.

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