30 Nov, 2016 Last updated: 30 Nov, 2016

New research from Deakin University has found that innovative marketing techniques can encourage supermarket customers to buy more healthy foods.

The project, which is a collaboration between the City of Greater Bendigo, Deakin University, Champions IGA and VicHealth saw Health Star Ratings added to shelf tags for healthy products, and signage promoting healthy food added to trolleys. 

It has been shortlisted for the 2016 VicHealth awards which recognise the year’s most innovative and high impact health promotion initiatives - to be presented on 1 December.

Lead researcher Dr Adrian Cameron, from Deakin’s Global Obesity Centre in the School of Health and Social Development, said the changes were shown to be highly effective in encouraging customers to choose healthy options. 

Custom-designed signs were placed on all shopping trolleys and baskets, and stickers were placed on the floor to direct customers to the healthiest options. 

“The shelf tag intervention was the first time that the Federal Government’s health star rating system (usually placed on the front of pack) has been demonstrated to be successful in helping people make healthier choices in the real world supermarket environment,” Dr Cameron said.

“The health star rating is a simple way for people to choose the healthiest options to put in their trolley, with higher star choices being the healthiest options. In this project, we added shelf tags to all products achieving a 4.5 or 5 health star rating (the healthiest products).”

The research, funded by a VicHealth Innovation grant, was conducted in controlled trials in eight Champions IGA supermarkets over the past 18 months.

Preliminary results suggest that both initiatives have led customers to buy healthier food. 

Customer surveys have also found:
  • 63% of customers who noticed the shelf tags felt they influenced what they purchased
  • 62% of customers noticed the shopping trolley signs, with 25% believing they influenced what they purchased
  • 88% of customers wanted the trolley signs to remain in place after the study 
City of Greater Bendigo Research and Evaluation Officer Amy Brown said “About two thirds of all food is purchased in supermarkets, which means they are a crucial setting to encourage healthy eating”.

“We want to encourage local supermarkets to be pro-active and position themselves as the champions of healthy eating. They can be a major part of the solution to the growing burden of diet-related disease.”

The collaboration between retail, academic, local government and state government partners was central to the success of the study. 

“Both customers and store managers spoke highly of the changes, with many customers saying that they were pleased to see IGA doing something about our growing obesity problem,” Amy said.

“We are all excited about where this world-leading work might lead.” 


Media contact:

Elise Snashall-Woodhams
Senior Media Coordinator, Deakin University
P: 03 9246 8593
M: 0436 409 659
E: [email protected]
T: @DeakinMedia