Food and Behaviour Research

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Choice architecture modifies fruit and vegetable purchasing in a university campus grocery store: time series modelling of a natural experiment

Walmsley R, Jenkinson D, Saunders I, Howard T, Oyebode O (2018) BMC Public Health.  2018; 18:  1149. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-6063-8 

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In developed countries, adolescent and young adult diets have been found to be nutritionally poor. The aim of this study was to examine whether a choice architecture intervention, re-arrangement of produce within a grocery store to increase the accessibility of fruit and vegetables, affected purchasing behaviour on a university campus.


A database of daily sales data from January 2012 to July 2017 was obtained from a campus grocery store. Two changes to the layout were made during this time period. In January 2015, fruit and vegetables were moved from the back of the store, furthest from the entrance, to the aisle closest to the entrance and an entrance-facing display increasing their accessibility. In April 2016, the entrance-facing display of fruit and vegetables was replaced with a chiller cabinet so that fruit and vegetables remained more accessible than during the baseline period, but less accessible than in the period immediately previously. A retrospective interrupted time series analysis using dynamic regression was used to model the data and to examine the effect of the store re-arrangements on purchasing. All analyses were carried out both for sales-by-quantity and for sales-by-money.


The first shop re-arrangement which made fruit and vegetables more prominent, increased the percentage of total sales that were fruit and vegetables, when analysed by either items purchased or money spent. The second rearrangement also had a positive effect on the percentage of total sales that were fruit and vegetables compared to baseline, however this was not significant at the 5% level. Over the five year period, the percentage of sales that were fruit and vegetables declined both in terms of items purchased, and money spent.

Increasing accessibility of fruit and vegetables in a grocery store is a feasible way to improve the diet of students in tertiary education. There is evidence of declining fruit and vegetable consumption among the studied population, which should be further investigated.


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