VicHealth Award for Deakin supermarket research

Improving Health and Wellbeing

Innovative marketing is encouraging shoppers to make healthier food choices.

“Creating Healthy Supermarkets for Victorians,” a collaboration between the City of Greater Bendigo, Deakin University, Champions IGA and VicHealth is the 2016 VicHealth Award winner for Promoting Healthy Eating.

The project tested a range of low cost, scalable changes to supermarket store environments that aim to increase healthy purchases and maintain profit for the retailer.

During controlled trials in eight Champions IGA stores, Health Star Ratings were added to shelf tags for healthy products and custom-designed signage promoting healthy food was added to trolleys and baskets.

Stickers were also placed on the floor to direct customers to the healthiest food choices.

Preliminary results suggest the initiatives were successful in leading shoppers to buy healthier food, with 63 per cent of customers who noticed the shelf tags indicating they influenced what they purchased.
Sixty-two per cent of customers noticed the shopping trolley signs, with 25 per cent believing they influenced their purchases.
Eighty-eight per cent of customers wanted the trolley signs to remain in place after the study.
Lead researcher Dr Adrian Cameron, from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention within Deakin’s Centre for Population Health Research, said adding the Federal Government’s Health Star Ratings system to shelf tags made the Star Rating far more prominent compared to where it is usually seen on the front of products.

“The Health Star Rating is a simple way for people to choose the healthiest options to put in their trolley, with higher star choices being the healthiest options,” Dr Cameron said.

“In this project, we added shelf tags to all products achieving a 4.5 or 5 Health Star Rating.”

City of Greater Bendigo Research and Evaluation Officer Amy Brown said about two thirds of all food is purchased in supermarkets, which means they are a crucial setting to encourage healthy eating.

“We want to encourage local supermarkets to be proactive and position themselves as the champions of healthy eating.

“They can be a major part of the solution to the growing burden of diet-related disease,” Ms Brown said.

“The collaboration between retail, academic, local government and State Government partners was central to the success of the study.

“Both customers and store managers spoke highly of the changes, with many customers saying that they were pleased to see IGA doing something about our growing obesity problem.

“We are all excited about where this world-leading work might lead.”

The research was funded by a VicHealth Innovation Research Grant.

Centre for Population Health Research (CPHR)

CPHR aims to deliver health improvements for global populations through its large portfolio of activities in public health research, implementation, training, knowledge translation and advocacy, and expert advisory services.