Oxford (dpa) – It is an open secret that supermarkets work with all kinds of psychology.
The placement of fruits and vegetables, the meat counter and the refrigeration section have been carefully chosen so that we can fill our shopping carts to the maximum. In two studies, British scientists have now investigated whether similar mechanisms could be used to encourage people to buy more healthy food and less harmful food. In fact, an improved offer structure made a difference, while special offers only brought short-term effects.
Chocolate Easter bunnies and sugar eggs before Easter, gingerbread stars and cinnamon before Christmas: Every year, large special areas in supermarkets tempt us to buy all kinds of sweets weeks before the respective holidays. A team led by nutritionist Carmen Piernas from the University of Oxford is now investigating what happens if these special areas are not set up: at 34 branches of a British supermarket chain, displays featuring seasonal chocolates and sweets were removed seven weeks before Easter. The treats were still available at other stores.
The British restrict the advertising of unhealthy products
The experiment ties in with plans by the UK government, which has announced plans to restrict advertising and prominent placement of foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fat in stores, in response to rising consumption of sugar and sugar in the UK in all age groups. Fatty acids are absorbed.
In fact, the researchers found that the usual seasonal increase in candy sales was less due to the removal of the displays: In 151 control stores with corresponding special areas, candy sales rose 18 percent in the period before Easter, in intervention stores for only 5 percent. As the scientists report in the journal “PLOS Medicine,” the absolute difference between control and intervention stores in candy sales was 21 kilograms per store per week. That would equate to a lower total calorie count in customers’ shopping carts, the authors said.
In a second study, the same team looked at six measures to see if they would boost sales of healthier options, with mixed results: For example, when low-fat potato chips were added to a supermarket offering, sales of regular potato chips fell 23 percent. With a wider range of reduced-sugar cookies, customers were more likely to buy low-calorie options (18 percent more) and fewer regular cookies (4 percent less). Slightly higher sales brought specific specials on seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as a campaign using Disney characters to promote select fruits and baked beans. On the other hand, the positioning of breakfast cereals with higher fiber content and/or less sugar at customer’s eye level, nor the special labeling of low-sugar or sugar-free beverages at the edge of the shelf had no effect. .
location matters a lot
For the authors, their study provides indications as to which measures could be further investigated and possibly used as a basis for the development of corresponding regulations. However, they also emphasize that the interventions studied focused on promoting a shift from a less healthy option to a healthier one or increasing overall sales of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. They write: “The impact of these measures on the total energy content of grocery purchases is likely to be significantly less than measures specifically aimed at reducing impulse purchases, such as removing foods high in fat, sugar, and salt from prominent places like at the end of corridors.
In fact, another British study recently found that supermarket shoppers bought significantly fewer sweets if they weren’t positioned at the checkout area at the end of the shopping route. In contrast, fruits and vegetables were picked more frequently when they were displayed in the entrance area of the store. However, this is often a popular location for these types of products for psychological reasons: the range of colors is meant to suggest freshness and health.