Can Supermarkets Influence Healthy Eating?

Tuesday, 7 February 2017
New research from Deakin University has found that innovative marketing techniques can encourage supermarket customers to buy more healthy foods. In a collaboration between the City of Greater Bendigo, Deakin University, Champions IGA and VicHealth, Health Star Ratings were added to shelf tags for healthy products, and signage promoting healthy food added to trolleys.

Lead researcher Dr Adrian Cameron, from Deakin’s Global Obesity Centre in the School of Health and Social Development, said the changes were shown to be highly effective in encouraging customers to choose healthy options. The shelf tag intervention was the first time that the Federal Government's health star rating system (usually placed on the front of pack) has been demonstrated to be successful in helping people make healthier choices in the real world supermarket environment, Dr Cameron said. The health star rating is a simple way for people to choose the healthiest options to put in their trolley, with higher star choices being the healthiest options. In this project, we added shelf tags to all products achieving a 4.5 or 5health star rating (the healthiest products).

The research, funded by a VicHealth Innovation grant, was conducted in controlled trials in eight Champions IGA supermarkets over 18 months. Customer surveys found:

•63% of customers felt the shelf labelling influenced what they purchased

•62% of customers the trolley posters had 25% influence on what they purchased

•88% of customers wanted the trolley signs to remain in place after the study

City of Greater Bendigo Research and Evaluation Officer Amy Brown said About two thirds of all food is purchased in supermarkets, which means they are a crucial setting to encourage healthy eating. We want to encourage local supermarkets to be pro-active and position themselves as the champions of healthy eating. They can be a major part of the solution to the growing burden of diet-related disease. Both customers and store managers spoke highly of the changes, with many customers saying that they were pleased to see IGA doing something about our growing obesity problem, Amy said.

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