It is noted that consumers are making choices that are more healthful at the grocery store in ever-increasing numbers. The caveat being that they tend to buy healthful as well as less healthful foods according to a new study from the University of Buffalo School of Management.
The study, which is published in the Journal of Retailing, finds individuals are concerned about eating a healthful diet but still throw junk food into the shopping cart.
“There is a disconnect between what people say they want to eat and what they actually purchase,” says study co-author Minakshi Trivedi, Ph.D., professor of marketing at the University at Buffalo School of Management. “Each group we studied made tradeoffs on healthy and unhealthy food to varying degrees.”
Researchers scrutinized two years’ worth of scanner data consisting of more than 70 stores of a U.S. major retail chain. They gathered 400 responses from the chain’s shoppers investigating whether or not consumers deliberately balance their health concerns with the food that they actually buy.
The study grouped consumers into three segments using a mathematical model based on their attitudes and concerns: the first group was made up of health-driven buyers, the second took a more moderate approach to purchasing healthy products, and the third group was indifferent to the healthier versions of products (Manne, 2016).
Faced with healthful or unhealthful choices, which the research evaluated using the level of fat, sugar, or salt as markers, the individual segments showed marked differences in characteristics, buying behavior, and acknowledgment to price and discounts.
Price, not surprisingly, had the smallest effect on the health-driven group. 92% of those concerned the most with health bought the healthful options. The more moderately health-driven group was more concerned and most likely to strike the balance between healthful and regular versions of the products. About 50% of the buyers in this group chose the healthful options. The third group of consumers was mostly affected by price and discounts. They chose the regular versions of products in opposition to their healthful alternatives.
Retailers can use these findings to design different strategies that meet the demand for and encourage the purchase of healthier products, according to the authors. The study provides guidance to retailers about which products to bundle for promotions and which element of the bundle to promote (Manne, 2016).
As for public policy, “If government agencies are to have any impact in promoting healthy consumption, they need to tailor their strategies to specific behavioral segments,” says Trivedi.
Manne, K. (2016, March 10). Double cheeseburger and a diet soda, please. Retrieved March 14, 2016, from University at Buffalo The State University of New York School of Management: http://mgt.buffalo.edu/about/news.host.html/content/shared/mgt/news/double-cheeseburger-and-a-diet-soda-please.detail.html
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