Did you just buy junk instead of healthy food?

New York, March 14 (IANS) Did you buy junk food while grocery shopping instead of healthy food? Researchers, including an India-origin scientist, have found that consumers are concerned about eating a healthy diet but junk food still ends up in the shopping cart.

The findings showed that retailers can design different strategies that meet the demand for and encourage the purchase of healthier products.

“There is a disconnect between what people say they want to eat and what they actually purchase,” said study co-author Minakshi Trivedi from University at Buffalo’s school of management.

“Each group we studied made trade-offs on healthy and unhealthy food to varying degrees,” Trivedi added.

The researchers analysed two years of scanner data across more than 70 stores of a major US retail chain, along with survey responses from 400 of the chain’s shoppers to see if consumers consciously balanced their health concerns with their actual food purchases.

The study, published in the Journal of Retailing, grouped consumers into three segments.

The first group was made up of health-driven buyers. The second group took a more moderate approach to purchasing healthy products and the third group was indifferent to the healthier versions of products.

When faced with healthy or unhealthy choices, the consumer segments showed distinct variations in characteristics, purchasing behaviour and response to price and discounts.

Price had the smallest impact on the health-driven group, where 92 percent of buyers consistently purchased the healthy options.

The moderate group was more price sensitive and likely to balance between healthy and regular versions of products — about half of the buyers in this group chose the healthy options.

In the third group, consumers were more affected by price and discounts and preferred the regular versions of products as opposed to their healthy alternatives.

“If government agencies want to have any impact in promoting healthy consumption, they need to tailor their strategies to specific behavioural segments,” Trivedi added.

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