A 2015 report titled “Temptation at Checkout” by Center for Science in the Public Interest took a long, hard look at consumer food purchasing behavior at checkout. What they found was not particularly shocking: the ratio of unhealthy vs. healthy purchases is troublesome. However, they also found that the promotion of healthy options at checkout can go a long way towards improving the quality of these last-minute selections.
Per the report, candy and chocolate are the two most frequent impulse purchases and that’s bad news as over half of all purchasing decisions are made spontaneously. At checkout, consumers are at their most vulnerable to impulse purchases due to proximity and decision fatigue, among other factors.
A 2014 study found that simple proximity had a huge impact on food selection by placing participants in a room with a bowl of apple slices and a bowl of buttered popcorn. They were told to eat whatever they liked, and the majority of the time they simply chose whatever was closest to them.
So, while simply placing more healthy options near checkout can create a positive impact, does that help persuade the pickiest, most impulse-driven group of all – children? While some might say that shouldn’t make a difference since they’re not making the ultimate purchase decision, most of us know that’s not quite the case in practice!
A 2016 report found that 95% of parents’ food purchase decisions were influenced by their children’s taste preferences (not a typo: 95%)! The same study found the second greatest influencer, which helped drive 91% of purchases, was whether the items are healthy for children. And, while 74% of shoppers have said their top health concern is weight management, good intentions often fall to the wayside when impulse kicks in at checkout. With one third of 10-11 year olds currently overweight or obese, that’s an issue.
Retailers can share some of the blame; even many stores that don’t specialize in grocery offer junk food at checkout. However if they are to swap these options with healthier offerings, they must have confidence the replacements will still motivate purchases, and ideally be in a form that’s appetizing, fresh and ready-to-eat. We’re certainly aware of at least one product that fits this description!
In the previously mentioned “Temptation at Checkout” report, a number of case studies detailing healthy checkout pilot programs have shown early signs of success. In a prominent example at a Walmart in California, sales of the items in their healthy checkout aisle quadrupled! Many other companies across the U.S., including Lidl, Hy-Vee and many independent stores have instated their own healthy checkout policies. The U.S. isn’t the only country doing so either. The U.K.’s largest grocery chain, Tesco agreed to remove all candy from checkout aisles and other retailers have followed suit.
CVS is another example of a company seeking healthier options; they dropped tobacco products in 2014 and have recently announced their commitment to selling fresh produce in over 500 stores. A CVS rep explained that “…the No. 1 thing [we’ve] heard from our customers was that they want increased access to healthy food,” and that they “still want the convenience of grab-and-go favorites…but they also want more healthy options.”
Not only will embracing healthy, ready-to-eat produce at checkout benefit consumers but it will also lead to deeper trust and loyalty to the brands behind these efforts. The Packer’s Tom Karst recently examined this idea concluding that, “Putting in place policies that seek to increase the public good will ultimately help consumers identify with and trust that business or brand. One sure way supermarkets can do that is to promote fruits and vegetables more often, and make them accessible to consumers at checkout.”
We couldn’t agree more!