Sign of healthier times

Sharon Kemp | Bendigo Weekly | 02-Dec-2016

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In an Australian first, three central Victorian supermarkets have verified that promoting healthier options in store will lead to more customers buying healthier food.

The research, a collaboration between Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre, the Champions IGA chain and the City of Greater Bendigo council, also proved there was a financial incentive for supermarkets to promote healthy food.

Champions IåGA marketing and merchandising manager Graham Gamble said sales figures showed customers were buying more during the test period – more of the healthy options but still their share of other products.

He said there was also recognition that customers wanted to be made aware of a healthy options for their shopping basket.

The chain, which has eight supermarkets in and around Bendigo, is looking to collaborate with Deakin University in further testing.

Its Long Gully, Kangaroo Flat and Heathcote supermarkets were the testing stores for the initial round, and its other supermarkets were control sites.

Global Obesity Centre researcher, Dr Adrian Cameron, said IGA could now claim to have been part of the first verifiable scientific research that linked the promotion of healthy foods with their purchase by customers.

The research, that was conducted over periods this year and in 2015, was also the first that included sales and profit data from the participating supermarket.

It tested customers’ response to signs featuring information about healthy eating mounted on trollies, and stickers on the floor directing customers to the healthiest options.

Tested separately, health star ratings were added to the shelf tags.

Given the research is up for an award – in the category of promoting health eating in the 2016 VicHealth awards – and IGA can market the initiative as a point of difference, Dr Cameron said he hoped there would be copycat activity among the large supermarket chains.

He said IGA worked as a test site because it was small and willing to share financial
information.

He said Bendigo worked because the council was looking to address the increasing proportion of residents who were obese.

Council research and evaluation officer Amy Brown said almost a third of residents in the local government area were obese.

“About two thirds of all food is purchased in supermarkets, which means they are a crucial setting to encourage healthy eating,” Ms Brown said.

“It was very encouraging to learn that very simple changes to signs and labelling can have a positive impact on the choices people make in the purchasing food.”

The research was funded through a VicHealth innovation grant.

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