Jessica Attard, Portfolio Manager, Guy's and St Thomas' Charity
Feb 20, 2020
Research has taught us that convenience is a key determinant of the food we eat. It follows affordability in the list of priorities for food and sits alongside social considerations and taste. Busy families, or teens on their route home from school, will regularly use convenience stores to top-up the weekly shop or to grab a quick bite.
We know that these stores are generally less healthy. They have smaller product ranges often lacking in balanced options compared to their larger competitors and focus on key categories like confectionary, alcohol and fizzy drinks. This is particularly true for independently-owned stores which are typically smaller in size and have crowded isles. In most cases owners are not marketeers, their shops may not change much over time, they may be less likely to respond to new consumer trends and more likely to respond to wholesaler deals.
The fragmented nature of these smaller stores makes them challenging to engage – they are often not part of membership bodies and don’t have links to one another so engagement must be on an individual basis. Relatively little is known about what approaches work to make them healthier. That’s why we supported the Mayor’s Good Food Retail project. Funded by the Mayor and supported by Sustain, six boroughs in the capital including Southwark planned and piloted an approach to good food retail. The pilot in Southwark, delivered by retail and local marketing experts Rice Marketing, had a specific focus on independent convenience stores.
This pilot involved working with six stores in areas with a high proportion of families on a low income (Camberwell Green and South Bermondsey). All outlets were identified as being important to the local community and were segmented based on their size and location. They were given individually agreed action plans which involved changes to product range, space, layout and merchandising to increase the amount and prominence of healthier options. Specific examples include extending the range of low or no sugar fizzy drinks, adding healthier confectionary alternatives at check-outs and moving healthier items into eye-line.
We’ve been impressed by the results of a relatively quick and inexpensive trial and are using these to inform what we do next. Here’s what we learnt:
This project has been interesting to learn about how we might begin to improve the food offering in local convenience stores. It emphasises that small and simple changes can have a significant impact on purchasing behaviour. And also that these can be good for businesses as well as people.
As part of the streets strand of our childhood obesity programme we’ll continue to consider how we might scale up this type of intervention. We’re also starting our work with wholesalers and will share lessons as we learn more.
In the meantime, do get in touch if you have ideas about how we could scale this exciting work.
Portfolio Manager: Jessica Attard
30 June, 2020
Our Programme Director, Sarah Hickey, shares how we’re collaborating with the commercial sector to tackle the inequality that prevents children from accessing nutritious food.