Many consumers struggle to make healthy choices, particularly in an environment where tasty, convenient and inexpensive foods are present in abundance. A vending machine is a typical example of such an environment. When you go there for a tasty snack, you often get tempted by various unhealthy products, such as the large chocolate bars or sugary drinks in the vending machine at the picture above. Offering more healthy products is a solution, but worries are that consumers resist changes to their favourite assortment.
There are different ways in which consumers could be encouraged to go for a healthier option. Colin Bos studied these different ways in an experiment in which 206 participants were given €5 and asked to purchase a snack and a drink from a vending machine. They always had the choice between twelve snacks (such as chocolate, biscuits and dried fruit) and five beverages (such as Coca Cola regular or Fanta light). The assortment and facings setup of the vending machine varied, however. In addition to a ‘regular’ vending machine assortment, Colin sent participants to either a vending machine with calorie labelling, one with easy accessible low-caloric options (more facings), one with a restricted assortment of high-caloric products (only six facings) or one with 33% price increases for high-caloric options.
Restricting less healthy options was the most successful way to stimulate healthier choices. More specifically, 39% of all participants selected a low-calorie snack from an assortment with one half low-calorie options, while 78% of all participants selected a low-calorie snack from an assortment with two-third low-calorie options. The good news is that both groups considered the presented vending machine assortment as equally attractive. All types of intervention were seen as fair and acceptable.
Read the entire paper of the study: Bos, C., Van Kleef, E., Van der Lans, I.A., and Van Trijp, H.C.M. (2018). Promoting healthy choices from vending machines: Effectiveness and consumer evaluations of four types of interventions. Food Policy, 79, 247-255.
The full paper is accessible at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2018.07.001
About Ellen van Kleef
Ellen van Kleef studies overeating, self-control and healthy food consumption interventions. She focuses on the role of subtle cues in the environment that cause people to overindulge and on how changes in the environment (smart interventions) can assist in self-control. She published her research in international journals such as Journal of Health Psychology, Food Quality and Preference, Appetite, Psychology and Health and Public Health Nutrition.