Redesigning Your Grocery with Applied Behavior Analysis


By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor,

A study by Sigurdsson, Larsen, and Gunnarsson in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis showed that selling healthy foods might be as simple as where you place them in the store.

Here’s what they did:

Baseline: Targeted healthy foods stayed in their normal store locations.  The foods included dried fish and mixed fruit.

Checkout Placement: The same targeted foods were placed on a shelf near the registers across two different stores.

Checkout Placement + Advertisement: This condition was identical to the previous condition with the addition of a simple sign that read, for example, “Dried fish is good for your health, builds up your muscles and helps keep you in shape.”

The results suggested a few things:

First, sales of the target foods increased in the new position.  However, the advertisement had no additional effect on sales.

Second, the researchers tracked sales of the unhealthy foods that used to be near the registers, but were placed on the store shelves during the study.  They found that sales of unhealthy items initially dropped when their location was switched, but held steady throughout the rest of the study.

Lastly, when the locations of the healthy and unhealthy foods were switched periodically, sales of healthy foods declined when removed from the register area while sales of unhealthy foods remained constant regardless of position.

Do you think a simple intervention like this would be beneficial in your grocery store?  Let us know in the comments below!

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Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns and  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at [email protected].

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  1. America is at the point where we have to start making changes. What can we loose by redesigning the placement of food. I wonder if Healthier customers make for happier more satisfied customers?

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