Shopping experience more important than price in fruit and vegetable intake

Monday, 05 March, 2012

A study by researchers at RTI International and George Washington University has shown that food shopping experience, rather than cost of produce, may impact how many serves of fruit and vegetables people eat.

The study examined the connection between the food shopping experience and the consumption of fruit and vegetables in an inner-city, low-income population. The shopping experience was rated on three characteristics: quality, selection and convenience.

Researchers found that participants in the study were more likely to eat three or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day if they shopped in stores, co-ops or farmers markets that they considered convenient and offering high levels of quality and selection.

Surprisingly, the cost of produce was not found to be a factor in how many servings of fruit and vegetables the participants ate. Those who considered cost as a barrier to purchasing fruit and vegetables actually ate the same amount of produce as those who did not.

“We found that low-income shoppers do not simply make dietary choices based on cost and availability,” said Dr Jonathan L Blitstein, lead author of the study. “Shoppers also consider less tangible aspects of the food shopping environment that relate to quality and satisfaction.

“This study contributes to the growing literature on effective ways to work in neighbourhood settings to promote a more healthful diet among people with lower incomes,” Blitstein said. “Working with local retailers to improve shopping convenience and provide a good selection of quality food items may influence consumers’ overall fruit and vegetable intake, independent of price and availability.”

The study was published in the February issue of Public Health Nutrition.

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