Reorganizing Supermarket Layouts Could Make Us Eat More Veggies

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By Gillie Houston Posted January 24, 2017

Oxford scientists will use a number of incentives to motivate shoppers to opt for more environmentally-friendly vegetarian items during their grocery runs.

Shoppers at a number of British supermarkets are about to discover a change to the way their aisles are organized, thanks to a new experiment. The Oxford University study aims to test the theory that meat eaters will buy more veggies if they're sold alongside their other groceries—and served up with added incentives.

In a collaboration with the Sainsbury's supermarket chain, Oxford scientists will use a number of integrative tools and incentives to motivate shoppers to opt for more environmentally-friendly vegetarian items during their grocery runs. According to The Guardian, previous research has shown that eating less meat could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30-70 percent worldwide and reduce the global mortality rate by 6-10 percent. Now, the Oxford scientists are attempting to win over meat eaters with inventive means.

"Nutritionists, political economists and epidemiologists at Oxford will study how animal foods affect health and the environment and they will then work with Sainsbury's to present those findings in ways people can understand," Sarah Molton, the head of Our Planet, Our Health, told The Guardian. Our Planet, Our Health is a human and environmental health organization that is helping to fund the study.

The efforts to improve non-meat sales will include a variety of in-store and online tactics, including integrating vegetarian versions of popular foods into aisles beside their meaty equivalents, and offering up online suggestions for more planet-friendly and health-conscious alternatives to shoppers' selections.

Judith Batchelar, director of brand at Sainsbury's, told The Guardian that the chain has also made strides in offering more meat-free options than ever. "Shoppers can now choose from a much greater variety of produce than they did in the past, especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. That gives them a greater opportunity to make meat-free choices, which is what we are seeing today," she says.

According to Batchelar, the stores "also use the plinths at the end of store aisles for promotions for foods that inspire," like "spaghetti and lasagna sheets made from vegetables," and are also considering offering loyalty point bonuses for produce purchases as part of the study. Researchers have also proposed providing leaflets and free recipes that explain how customers could eat less meat.

Per The Guardian, Batchelar hopes that the scientific insight provided by the Oxford study will help the popular chain pinpoint the most effective ways to convert their customers into more conscious consumers, benefiting both their health and the health of planet as a whole.

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