Moving location of fruit and vegetables in stores can boost sales by 15%

Moving the location of fruit and vegetables in stores can increase sales by up to 15%, say researchers. According to a study’s findings, sales rose without any further marketing or messaging. To boost sales, all the shopkeeper had to do was to move the location of the fresh fruit and vegetables.

Researchers from the University of Warwick’s Medical School in England wrote about their study and findings in the journal BMC Public Health (citation below).

The authors analyzed purchases from a real grocery store in which storekeeper changed the location of the fruit and veg. The shop they studied – Rootes Grocery Store – is a convenience store located within the grounds of the University of Warwick.

The researchers say their study suggests that a simple ‘nudge’ can boost fruit and vegetable consumption. Additionally, the nudge can do this without any conscious action by the purchaser.

Studies have shown that the diets of young adults are poor. In other words, students’ diets tend not to be well-balanced. Therefore, rearranging the location of fruit and veg not only boosts profits, but would probably be good for student health.

Moving fruit and vegetables closer to entrance

The shopkeeper moved the fruit and vegetables closer to the store’s entrance. There was no intention of boosting sales by moving the location of the produce. The shopkeeper made the decision without the aim of carrying out a research experiment.



Display of fruit and vegetables
In an Abstract preceding the main article in the journal, the authors wrote: “Increasing accessibility of fruit and vegetables in a grocery store is a feasible way to improve the diet of students in tertiary education.” (Images: Top: Rootes Grocery Store. Bottom Left and Bottom Right: University of Warwick)

Team leader, Dr Oyinlola Oyebode, of Warwick Medical School, and colleagues carried out the research afterwards. In other words, they heard about the changes and subsequently decided to investigate what the effect might be on sales.

During the study period, the location of the fruit and vegetables changed twice:

January 2015

In January 2015, the fruit and veg display moved to the aisle closest to the entrance and an entrance-facing display. The move increased their accessibility. They had been at the back of the store.

April 2016

A chiller cabinet replaced the entrance-facing display. Therefore, the fruit and vegetables remained more accessible compared to the baseline period. However, they were less accessible than immediately previously.

The researchers used a retrospective interrupted time series analysis using dynamic regression to model the data. The model also examined the effect the re-arrangements of the fruit and vegetables had on purchasing.

The authors gathered data from the store’s tills from January 2012 to July 2017. They examined sales after, during, and before the changes to the shop’s layout.

They found that after the layout changes, sales of fruit and vegetables increased. There was an increase both in terms of what people bought and the value of total sales. Consumers purchased about 15% more fruit and vegetables than would have been expected without the display re-arrangements.

15% rise in sales of fruit and vegetables

According to a University of Warwick press release:

“From the collected data the researchers found that 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. They bought approximately 15% 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 may be maintained over time – meaning that such a change may be a viable method of improving the nutritional quality of the diets of young adults, at a time when there is existing evidence for a declining fruit and vegetable consumption in that age group.”

This suggests that, through a ‘nudge’ technique, stores can achieve a statistically significant and maintained increase in fruit and vegetable sales to young adults. Additionally, the storekeeper can achieve this without the need for overt message or advertising campaigns.

Dr Oyebode’s comment

Regarding the study, Dr Oyebode said:

“We looked at whether a change in the layout 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.”

Co-author, Tony Howard, Warwick’s Director of Food and Retail Strategy, said:

“Having found this result, we plan to support our students to eat healthily by keeping fruit and vegetables accessible in our campus grocery store.”

Citation

Choice architecture modifies fruit and vegetable purchasing in a university campus grocery store: time series modelling of a natural experiment,” Rosemary Walmsley, David Jenkinson, Ian Saunders, Tony Howard, and Oyinlola Oyebode. BMC Public Health 2018 18:1149. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-6063-8.