NEWARK, Del. -- The Produce for Better Health Foundation here released a new retail study that it said shows produce department sales are increased significantly by the 5 a Day produce promotion program.
The study, using scan data from two sets of test stores, represents the first time that the quantifiable effects of the national program has been measured, said foundation officials.
In a 12-week test period, produce dollar sales increased an average 8.8% at stores using a new promotion package from the foundation. The study was conducted by Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Ill., and used sales data as well as consumer interviews.
"Although retail support for the 5 a Day program has always been strong, PBH wanted to document the value of a fully integrated, well-executed program," said Mike Gretz, president of PBH.
The study also found that the rate of sales increases grew higher the longer the program was in place. While sales rose 8.8% over the entire 12 weeks, sales jumped 13.8% during the last four weeks of that period.
"This study was designed to provide retailers with concrete proof that 5 a Day works and has a dramatic impact on total produce department sales and profits," Gretz said. "Clearly, the study proved that a consistent level of 5 a Day presence results in increased sales."
The test was run in 32 stores operated by Marsh Supermarkets, Indianapolis, and the Orlando division of Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla.
The stores in the test displayed a fully integrated "5 a Day Destination Stop" merchandising package, a new prototype program that PBH created in conjunction with Try-Foods International, Apopka, Fla.
The merchandising materials for the Destination Stop included brochures, danglers, point-of-sale cards, recipe cards, buttons and aprons for produce department clerks, periodic samples and giveaways, and a 6-foot marquee promoting the 5 a Day program, according to PBH.
"The display marquee has really been effective," said Jim Richter, director of produce merchandising for Marsh Supermarkets, in a press release. "We used a table (under the 5 a Day marquee) to display a combination of ad and full-retail items."
The 12-week test period was September to November 1995. Sales during that time were compared with sales in an eight-week base period at the same stores during July and August 1995. During the base period, the Destination Stop programs were not in place, though other 5 a Day materials were present.
The percentage change from the base period to the test period was then compared to a control panel of stores using no 5 a Day activities or materials at all.
The study took several variables into account, PBH said. From shoppers' answers to perception-oriented questions, researchers concluded, for example, that the consumers were feeling less health-conscious during the test period than they were during the base period.
One possible reason for that may be that the base period took place around National 5 a Day Week, when extra media and in-store exposure could have been in play.
Another reason could be that, during the summer months that comprised the base period, produce is typically of better quality, more abundant and lower in price than during the test period. The holidays could also have been a distraction from healthy eating.
The age of respondents also varied, which could have been a factor. During the base period, 54% of respondents were under the age of 45. During the test period, 47% of consumers queried were under the age of 45.
The study speculated that younger people may already be following a healthy regimen, while older consumers are now adjusting their eating habits.
As part of the consumer research, shoppers were queried about their responses to the promotions. The majority of shoppers said they were positively affected by 5 a Day promotions.
The study found that consumer reaction to in-store signs was significantly better than pretest responses indicated it would be. This is a positive note for retailers, since signs and displays are easy and cost-effective promotional tools, PBH said. Perhaps even more importantly, consumers seemed to find the 5 a Day material a point of differentiation between supermarkets, according to the study. More than 50% of consumers said they were encouraged by 5 a Day to buy more produce at that particular store than at another store.
The study tested consumer reactions to different specific aspects of the Destination Stop. Samples and recipes were the most effective; 79.3% of shoppers said samples encouraged them to buy more produce. Also, 76.6% said recipes encouraged them to buy more fruits and vegetables.
Giveaways were effective at building customer loyalty. While 71.1% of shoppers said giveaways encouraged them to buy more produce, 60% said the freebies encouraged them to buy more produce at that particular store.
Recipes were the next most effective in that category, with 53% of shoppers saying recipes encouraged them to buy more.