February 18, 2013

Healthy checkout lines and sales worries

Looking for an interesting movie about nudging in the supermarket? Here it is.

Tempting snacks near the checkout line can be hard to resist. Yoni Freedhoff's blog included a post about healthy checkout aisles at a few stores in the US. Unhealthy snacks such as candy bars were removed from the aisle and replaced by (dried) fruit, vegetables and toys that encourage children to be active such as hula hoops. The movie shows customers who are happy (less nagging by children) and store managers who seem to be surprised by its success.

Easy access to healthier snacks may indeed impact consumer choices, as our recently published study showed. Nevertheless, our study took place in a hospital staff canteen where sales were not of big concern.

This transformation of junk food checkout lines into healthier lines took place in 2011. I would love to see data showing the effectiveness of this nudge throughout time. Interestingly, one store manager in the movie mentions the higher profit margins of some healthier items (such as the jump rope) compared to a candy bar. It appears that the success of 'a healthy options aisle' depends on the 'replacement assortment'. Apparently, customers need or want to be tempted and give in to something, whether it is chocolate or a toy. Hopefully, sales did not drop after the first excitement. After all, without substantial sales, I am afraid this experiment would not continue for a long time.

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