Supermarket trolleys the new frontier on health crusade

Supermarket trolleys with advertising that prompts shoppers to buy fruit and vegetables could lead to healthier grocery purchases, research finds.

A recent study published in Nutrition Bulletin tested if ‘social norm nudges’ placed in shopping trolleys could influence shoppers to buy more fruit and vegetables.

The results were positive.

Supermarkets and grocery stores hold a lot of sway over shoppers, contributing to 68 per cent of the Australian retail food market share.

But many major supermarkets put junk food front and centre on shelves; a major issue considering only 6.1 per cent of adults eat the recommended two fruit and five vegetables per day.

Fruitful trolley ads

For the study, 30 of about 100 trolleys at the independent supermarket LaManna in Melbourne’s Essendon Fields, were fitted with placards with the message: “More than nine out of 10 LaManna shoppers buy fruits or vegetables at each shop.”

Researchers found The 109 customers who used trolleys featuring the placards spent $9.10 more on fruit and vegetables than the average shopper. Quantity wise, this equated to an extra 1.25 kilograms of fruit and vegetables.

Study author Greg McGrath, private health program lead – obesity at Bupa Health Insurance, told TND the potential returns could be “huge”.

It meant not only would shoppers be nudged into getting their proper fill of fruit and vegetables, but supermarkets would gain financially.


‘Nudges’ were placed in trolleys to prompt customers to buy more fresh produce.

“My advice would be to keep [placards] installed for a full month and then take them away, and then reintroduce them three or four months after,” he said.

“If [supermarkets] did that for a year … you could make maybe $150,000 with a few thousand dollar [investment].”

However, Dr McGrath said larger studies were needed to confirm the results – his research was at a single supermarket on a single day.

Coles, Woolworths and Aldi all declined to take part as they’re “highly competitive with their information”, he said. But Dr McGrath hoped he might convince the big retailers to participate in the future.

Potential uses

Trolley nudges have the potential to become a key marketing tool for fresh produce, which Dr McGrath said could sometimes be a struggle to market compared to products such as chocolate bars.

This is partly because general fruit and vegetable categories can’t be trademarked. Price is another factor, as it varies depending on season and weather conditions.

However, Dr McGrath said fruit and vegetables were sometimes already the most profitable products for supermarkets.

“They can make more on them if they buy the right ones, then the markup is higher,” he said.

Promoting fresh produce could also have good impacts on wellbeing, with benefits including protection against diabetes, heart disease and cancer.


This placard could be altered to promote any number of health messages.

Dr McGrath said trolley nudges could also be used to promote overall health messages such as protecting skin against the sun, and avoiding excessive drinking.

“The trolley is normally with shoppers for about half an hour,” he said.

“There’s quite a unique place to modify [the nudges].”

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