Product placement, promo’s and price do hold sway over consumers’ better-for-you snacking choice

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Intervention trials led by PepsiCo found that consumers bought 19% fewer packs of standard variety crisps, swapping them for healthier baked variants. Pic: GettyImages/shironosov
Intervention trials led by PepsiCo found that consumers bought 19% fewer packs of standard variety crisps, swapping them for healthier baked variants. Pic: GettyImages/shironosov

Related tags: Collaboration for Healthier Lives UK, Pepsico, Nestlé, Sainsbury's, better for you

A review of the Collaboration for Healthier Lives UK’s (CHL UK) first year of pilot measures to encourage healthier shopping baskets reveals that retailers working with snack producers like PepsiCo are certainly able to influence consumer choice.

In 2018, The Consumer Goods Forum and Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity created the Collaboration for Healthier Lives UK (CHL UK), enlisting the likes of companies like PepsiCo, Nestle and Danone, along with retail giants like Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Coop, to pioneer new ways to help turn the tide on obesity.

A series of pilot measures to encourage healthier shopping baskets – such as changes to pricing and promotions, availability, choice architecture, shelf and nutritional labelling as well as social feedback techniques – were trialled in retail outlets in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, two areas with significant inequalities between low-income and more affluent neighbourhoods and home to over 600,000 consumers.

A review of its first year results – independently evaluated by the University of Oxford – found that retailers working with food producers are indeed able to influence the healthiness of consumer shopping baskets.

For example, results from successful trials revealed consumers bought 13% more fruit and veggies, 22% fewer packets of calorific confectionery, and 19% fewer packs of standard variety crisps, with an equivalent rise in healthier baked crisp sales each week during the intervention.

PepsiCo, placement and price

PepsiCo participated in a price promotion snacking trial, giving healthier snacks more prominence in seven Sainsbury’s stores, including a limited promotion making one million of these items available for just 1p.

“CHL is an important initiative for us to come together with peer companies, retailers and local organisations to devise, test and learn from interventions that help people make healthier choices,”​ said Jason Richard, GM of PepsiCo UK.

The snacking giant refused to comment further when approached by BakeryandSnacks for insight details.

In another trial, Sainsbury’s teamed up with Disney to use reward cards in combination with price incentives to encourage healthier purchases, following evidence – including research in farming and food charity Sustain’s ‘Pester Power’ report – that shows 91% of parents believe the use of mascots and characters do indeed influence a child’s choice.

Sainsbury’s was already giving away Disney Hero themed collectable cards to families for every £10 spent across its 1,400 UK stores, but subsequently rolled out a six-week pilot in all its stores nationwide to nudge consumers into buying healthier products on promotion, such as breakfast cereals, oats, baked beans and fruit.

Over the intervention period (August to October 2019), compared to the same period a year earlier, stores sold a weekly average of 387% more packs of fruit per week.

Moving the benchmark

A third trial looked into editing the choice of biscuits available, which, according to Nectar purchasing data, is one of the categories with the higher number of calories and particularly popular amongst customers with low household incomes.

For the 12-week trial, Sainsbury’s switched 25% of its range of larger packs of biscuits with options that delivered fewer calories per pack, such as biscuit thins, mini biscuits and smaller pack sizes.

According to the report, the retailer didn’t highlight any changes to the customer and didn’t receive any complaints, and while results were not statistically significant, they did see a smaller increase in calories sold across the biscuit range in intervention stores compared to the control stores.

Sainbury’s also tried swapping up in-aisle positional changes to see what influence this had on consumer purchasing decisions, moving high-fibre, low sugar cereals to eye-level, and placing higher sugar, lower fibre cereals on the top shelf. Again, results were not significant, although intervention stores appeared to sell more of the less healthy cereals and less of the healthier cereals. As such, it was concluded that modest positional changes aren’t perhaps enough to overcome these drivers.

'Just the beginning'

CHL UK co-chairs Richard Hall (VP and general secretary UK & Ireland, Danone) and Judith Robinson (head of Health, Tesco) emphasised that “this is just the beginning.

“We need to learn from the preliminary evaluation and adapt to a changing consumer.

“An honest assessment of our first year is that whilst some initiatives have been scaled across the UK, we won’t achieve the full potential of our unique collaboration unless we do more to incorporate health goals into the business planning process between and within manufacturers and retailers,”​ they wrote in the report.

Hall added, “The breadth of the stakeholder group involved in CHL UK is enabling us to understand how to evolve the way we operate and to achieve real progress. The learnings from this report will help us improve next year.”

Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s brand, said the retailer takes its responsibility to help customers eat healthily seriously.

“The Collaboration for Healthier Lives Initiative is an integral step towards building the evidence for in-store interventions. We believe the learnings from these trials will underline the importance of cross-sector collaboration between supermarkets, manufacturers, Government and academia,” ​she said.

In phase two, CHL UK aims to grow its membership, increase the number of trials and their geographic reach and incorporate sustainability into its goals. It will continue to focus on reaching those on lowest incomes and at greatest risk of ill-health, designing interventions that don’t exclude anyone.

Collaboration for Healthier Lives (CHL) is a global movement led by The Consumer Goods Forum and made up of manufacturers, retailers, public health authorities and local communities. Currently, there are nine CHL initiatives running across 14 countries, all working to impact healthier shopping behaviours and inspire new business models.

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