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Shoppers Buy Healthier Foods when Supermarket Layout Favours Fruit and Vegetables over Sweets

A study from the University of Southampton, led by Christina Vogel and Janis Baird published in the journal PLOS Medicine in September has suggested that removing confectionery from checkouts and the end of aisles, and placing fruit and vegetables near store entrances, prompts customers to make healthier food purchases.

Vogel and Baird found store-wide confectionery sales decreased, and fruit and vegetable sales increased, when non-food items and water were placed at checkouts and at the end of the opposite aisles, and an expanded fruit and vegetable section was repositioned near the store entrance. Beneficial effects were also observed for household fruit and vegetable purchasing and individual dietary quality.

This study measured effects of storewide layout shifts, aiming to reduce shopper exposure to low-nutrition food on store sales, customer loyalty card purchasing patterns and the diets of more than one household member.

Vogel said: “Altering the layouts of supermarkets could help people make healthier food choices and shift population diet towards the government’s dietary recommendations. The findings of our study suggest that a healthier store layout could lead to nearly 10,000 extra portions of fruit and vegetables and approximately 1,500 fewer portions of confectionery being sold on a weekly basis in each store.”

Baird added: “These results provide novel evidence to suggest that the intended UK government ban on prominent placement of unhealthy foods across retail outlets could be beneficial for population diet, and that effects may be further enhanced if requirements for a produce section near supermarket entrances were incorporated into the regulation.”

The study was conducted in partnership with national supermarket chain Iceland Foods Ltd, and took place in Iceland stores in England.

Access the paper here from open access journal PLOS Medicine: https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003729

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