Co-designing and testing retail interventions

Overview

Supermarkets are important settings for dietary interventions and research shows that supermarket interventions can be effective. However, such interventions are often not rolled out in the real world because they are not cost-effective for the retailer. A new industry-academic collaboration aimed to co-design and test commercially sustainable strategies to increase sales of healthier foods (relative to less healthy foods) in New Zealand supermarkets.

A series of co-design workshops led by an experienced facilitator, involved supermarket corporate strategy team members and public health nutrition academics. The workshops followed a co-design process:

  1. engagement - establishing relationships;
  2. planning - working to establish goals;
  3. exploring - learning about partner needs and experiences;
  4. development - turning ideas into possible interventions;
  5. decision - determining the interventions to be used (within agreed parameters and constraints);
  6. research - evaluation of the interventions.

Aim

The aim of this research was to work in partnership with a major supermarket retailer to jointly design and test changes to the supermarket environment to encourage customers to make healthier food purchases.

Method

Two co-design workshops, involving supermarket corporate strategy team members and public health academics, were led by an experienced facilitator. Thematic analysis of the co-design workshop data identified potential interventions.

The intervention selected for testing was more prominent placement of healthier breakfast cereals on shelves (at ‘eye level’) and placement of less healthy products on lower shelves.

Breakfast cereals were ranked by their nutrition content (sugar, energy, saturated fat, fibre content and Health Star Rating) with the healthiest products placed on the top 3-4 shelves and less healthy products on the lower shelves.

The intervention was evaluated over 3 months in three Countdown supermarkets in Auckland between April and July 2019. Another three stores acted as control stores (no change made to product placement). Weekly sales at intervention stores were compared with control store sales.

Shoppers were surveyed to see if they had noticed any change to product placement. Supermarket staff were also interviewed.

Key findings

  • The placement of healthier breakfast cereals in more prominent positions on shelves (eye-level) has no effect on product sales in the intervention stores compared to control stores.
  • Shelf placement also had no effect on the nutritional profile of product sales.
  • Most shoppers (77%) did not notice changes made to the placement of breakfast cereals (there was no signage) but were supportive of the intent of the intervention.
  • Brand preferences and price were commonly stated by shoppers as primary reasons for product choice in the breakfast cereal category.
  • The promotion of unhealthy breakfast cereals during the study may have reduced the effect of shelf placement on sales of healthier products.

Overall, co-design with a commercial food retailer was a feasible strategy to design healthy eating interventions, however, other retail factors, including in-store product promotions, should be aligned to increase healthier food purchases.

Presentations

Young L, Rosin M, Grey J, Jiang Y, Vandevijvere S, Waterlander W, Ni Mhurchu C. Effects of more prominent shelf placement of healthier food products on supermarket purchases: A co-designed pilot study. International Society for Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity 2020 Annual Meeting, 17-20 June 2020

Young L, Rosin M, Jiang Y, Grey J, Vandevijvere S, Waterlander W, Ni Mhurchu C. Effects of more prominent shelf placement of healthier food products on supermarket purchases: A co-designed pilot study. 2019 Annual Meeting of the Nutrition Society of New Zealand, Napier, New Zealand, 28-29 November 2019

Ni Mhurchu C, Young L, Rosin M, Jiang Y, Grey J, Vandevijvere S, Waterlander W. Effects of more prominent shelf placement of healthier food products on supermarket purchases: A co-designed pilot study. Australia & New Zealand Obesity Society 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting, Sydney, Australia, 16-18 October 2019

Young L, Vandevijvere S, Waterlander W, Grey J, Ni Mhurchu C. Strategies to promote healthier supermarket purchases that are good for health and good for business: A co-design study. 8th Activity and Nutrition Aotearoa Conference, Auckland, New Zealand, 21-22 May 2019

Project Details
Cliona Ni Mhurchu 02

Project Lead
Prof Cliona Ni Mhurchu
Email: c.nimhurchu@auckland.ac.nz
Ph: 09 923 4494

Leanne Young

Research Fellow
Dr Leanne Young
Email: leanne.young@auckland.ac.nz
Ph: 027 341 4202

Elaine Umali

Project Manager
Elaine Umali
Email: e.umali@auckland.ac.nz