August 26, 2021
Americans are facing an ongoing obesity crisis and surveys consistently show that the majority want to lose weight. Can grocers help now that they offer increased online access?
Researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) recently attempted to identify design features that online grocery stores might add “to support the goal of healthier diets for weight loss.” the to learn was carried out against the backdrop of the rapid growth of the online grocery store.
Their results were recently published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
The researchers first surveyed adults on healthy eating for weight loss to learn more about their shopping habits, with an emphasis on their nutritional needs. The study found that shoppers struggled to plan, buy, and prepare tasty, nutritious, easy-to-prepare, and affordable meals.
Based on the initial results, the researchers identified four features that online grocery stores might include to help shoppers: (1) a shopping cart nutritional assessment tool, (2) a healthy meal planning tool, (3) an interactive healthy eating inspiration walk, and (4) settings for healthy shopping preferences.
Study participants gave their opinion on each shopping feature, saying that they preferred:
- A “healthy shopping” setting that allows them to set their personal preferences for the types of foods they want to buy in limited quantities (e.g. sugary foods, salty foods, etc.) and the types of foods that They want to buy in bulk quantities (e.g., fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.).
- A healthy meal planning tool that provides meal ideas and recipes tailored to the family’s taste, diet, convenience, and price preferences.
- A food cart tool that assesses the nutritional value of the shopping cart and provides recommendations on how to improve the quality (e.g. swap lightly salted or unsalted peanuts for regular salted peanuts).
A review of various websites shows grocers offering healthy eating instructions, access to nutritionists, Tips for balanced meal planning and help with special diets, such as as vegan, keto-friendly, or gluten-free, but weight loss tips combined with a healthy diet seemed to be lacking. A wide range of popular subscription-driven apps, including Noom, WW (formerly Weight Watchers), and My Fitness Pal, offer personalized nutrition and diet plans.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why aren’t grocers offering more advice and online tools that can help shoppers with weight management? What do you think of the online feature suggestions cited in the study?
“This study shows that a consumer need remains largely unmet and an opportunity for grocers to strengthen their relationships with their weight / health conscious customers.”
“Give shoppers a healthy app if they want, provide nutritional information, but otherwise stay away from it.”
“If public health were the real problem, grocers would have to cut their stores (at least) in half and cut key departments altogether.”