FRANKLIN, Tenn., Nov. 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- As Americans prepare holiday menus, grocery stores are bracing for one of the industry's busiest times of the year. But how many of the choices made in aisles are influenced by store signage and layout—and is it possible for a grocery store to make shoppers healthier?
New research on food buying habits indicates it is possible to "nudge" people to make healthier choices by presenting food in a different product order or proximity. That is not news for Blue Zones Project® cities throughout the country. In a growing number of communities, changes are being implemented in grocery stores to make it easier for shoppers to make healthy choices and avoid the temptations of high-sugar and high-fat foods. Blue Zones Project, a growing nationwide well-being improvement initiative, is helping communities redesign the places we live, work, and play to make healthy choices easier. That includes working with grocery stores to highlight foods and beverages that support well-being, based on lifestyles in Blue Zones ® areas—regions of the world where people live longer, with less chronic disease. In many cases, the result is an increase in sales for produce and other featured items. "Research shows that people gravitate toward better options when they are easy and accessible," said Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author who founded Blue Zones Project. "When grocery stores make small changes to increase awareness of healthy foods and drinks, people naturally purchase more of those items." A June 2016 review of existing research published in the British Journal of Nutrition by the Faculty of Science at the University of Copenhagen identified that manipulation of food product order or proximity can influence food choice. According to Science Daily,"nudging or 'choice architecture' refers to strategic changes in the environment that are anticipated to alter people's behavior in a predictable way, without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives." Blue Zones Project has identified 35 evidence-based practices, or "nudges," that transform a grocery store environment—by optimizing layout and displays, highlighting locally grown produce and foods commonly eaten in Blue Zones areas, and giving shoppers healthier options in the checkout lane. Customers are responding favorably, with stores reporting higher customer counts and more revenue from healthy items.