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Promoting Healthier Food Purchases By Leveraging the Online-Grocery Environment

This study is not yet open for participant recruitment. (see Contacts and Locations)
Verified June 2015 by University of Vermont
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Lizzy Pope, University of Vermont Identifier:
First received: June 29, 2015
Last updated: June 30, 2015
Last verified: June 2015

Rationale: Online-grocery shopping is predicted to be one of the "hottest" food trends of 2014, as national retailers such as Amazon, as well as start-up companies, venture into the e- commerce grocery sector. Importantly, the online-grocery environment could be uniquely manipulated to promote healthier food purchasing and help with weight control. Since consumers tend to choose items listed first on menus and buffet lines, the order of food products displayed on the grocer's website may impact purchasing. Furthermore, it's possible that in an online-grocery environment, nutrition information could be made more salient to consumers. For example, previous research has demonstrated that label color influences perceptions of the healthfulness of foods. The FDA also recently proposed a redesign of foods' nutrition facts panels, which would highlight calorie content in a larger font. Although implementing this label change on all food labels could take years, e-commerce sites could change the format of the nutritional information they display much more quickly.

Objectives: The proposed study intends to nudge consumers to make healthier grocery purchases through three distinct interventions: 1.) Manipulating the order of food items within grocery categories; 2.) Displaying product nutrition information in red or green; and 3.) Presenting calorie information in a larger font size. We propose to examine these concepts in adult consumers using a grocery e-commerce platform servicing socioeconomically and racially diverse communities in the northeastern U.S.

Condition Intervention
Behavioral: Nutrition facts automatically or not automatically displayed
Behavioral: Nutrition facts in color
Behavioral: Nutrition Facts Label in Larger Font
Behavioral: Healthier Items First

Study Type: Observational
Study Design: Time Perspective: Prospective
Official Title: Promoting Healthier Food Purchases By Leveraging the Online-Grocery Environment

Further study details as provided by University of Vermont:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Food Purchasing of targeted items [ Time Frame: Continuously throughout the intervention expected average of 52 weeks ] [ Designated as safety issue: No ]
    Company purchasing records will be used to track purchasing of items during the baseline period, as well as during the intervention periods, for the healthier items displayed first and nutrition-facts label interventions.

  • Click Rate of targeted food items [ Time Frame: Continuously throughout the intervention expected average of 52 weeks ] [ Designated as safety issue: No ]
    We will tabulate a "click-rate" for each targeted product during the intervention periods and at baseline to determine whether consumers clicked on the nutrition facts panels more often for healthier versus less-healthy products, and if consumers clicked more often when calories were displayed in larger fonts or were listed in red/green. We will also be able to determine whether customers clicked more often on the targeted healthy items when they were listed first on the website in each category. Clicks for each item will be tabulated weekly and averaged over the intervention or baseline periods.

  • Nutrient Analysis of Food Purchased by consumers [ Time Frame: Continuously throughout the intervention expected average of 52 weeks ] [ Designated as safety issue: No ]
    To determine whether average number of calories purchased changed when calories and serving sizes were displayed in larger fonts, we will use purchasing data to compare the average number of calories purchased in orders before the font change to the average number of calories purchased during the font change. Calories per item will be determined using the USDA database, which houses nutrition facts for all foods on the Rosie website.

Estimated Enrollment: 400
Study Start Date: August 2015
Estimated Study Completion Date: August 2016
Estimated Primary Completion Date: August 2016 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Groups/Cohorts Assigned Interventions
Grocery Customers
All customers who shop on the Rosie site during the intervention period.
Behavioral: Nutrition facts automatically or not automatically displayed
For two months nutrition information on the Rosie site will be displayed in a "tab" that consumers can click on to display the nutrition facts panels of products. Investigators will use NuVal scores to determine the fifteen "healthiest," and fifteen "least healthy" items in six grocery categories; chips, cookies, cereal & breakfast, yogurt, ice cream, and frozen pizza. We will then compare the number of clicks on nutrition information for healthier versus less healthy items to determine if there's a possibility of willful ignorance coming into play when choosing to purchase less healthy items.
Behavioral: Nutrition facts in color
For two months the font on products' nutrition facts labels will be displayed in red or green. For this proof-of-concept intervention, the color of a label's display will be determined randomly, in order to gather a clearer picture of whether label color could be leveraged to influence product choice. Items in each grocery category will be randomly assigned to receive green or red labels during the intervention period, so 50% of products in each category have red nutrition facts labels, and 50% have green nutrition facts labels. We will then compare proportions of green to red items purchased during the intervention period with the proportion of those same items purchased during the baseline period, when all labels were in black font.
Behavioral: Nutrition Facts Label in Larger Font
For two months the serving size and calorie lines on the nutrition facts labels will be displayed in a larger font for every item on the Rosie site. Average calories in customer purchases will be quantified using purchase data, and the average calories for online-grocery orders during baseline and intervention periods will be compared.
Behavioral: Healthier Items First
For two months, instead of the product popularity default-display option in the online store, thirty healthier items will be displayed on the first page in each grocery category. All grocery categories where there is scoring variation between healthy and less-healthy options (i.e. cereal, chips, bakery, sauces, etc.) will be included in the intervention. The thirty-targeted healthy items will be identified using NuVal scores. NuVal scores will not actually be displayed as part of the shopping site, and will be used exclusively as a guide to systematically determine targeted items in each food category. The proportion of targeted healthy items purchased in each category versus non-targeted items purchased during the intervention will be compared to the proportion of targeted vs. non-targeted items purchased during the baseline period.


Genders Eligible for Study:   Both
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes
Sampling Method:   Non-Probability Sample
Study Population
All orders placed on any of the Rosie sites or apps in the study period will be included. No active recruiting of participants will take place, data will only be collected from existing Rosie customers. Participants will not be informed that manipulations are happening on the website, other than notices the company occasionally displays when they are revising features of the website. In order to determine whether any of the proposed "mindless" interventions actually work, it is imperative that consumer attention not be drawn to changes in the site. It is expected that 400-1000 orders per month will be included as part of the study during each two-month intervention period.

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Shopping on a Rosie grocery site

Exclusion Criteria:

  • No exclusion criteria, all orders will be eligible
  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT02489396

Contact: Lizzy Pope, Phd, RD 8026564262

United States, Vermont
University of Vermont Not yet recruiting
Burlington, Vermont, United States, 05405
Contact: Lizzy Pope, PhD, RD    802-656-4262    efpope@uvm.du   
Sponsors and Collaborators
University of Vermont
  More Information

No publications provided

Responsible Party: Lizzy Pope, Assistant Professor and DPD Director, University of Vermont Identifier: NCT02489396     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 029898
Study First Received: June 29, 2015
Last Updated: June 30, 2015
Health Authority: United States: Institutional Review Board processed this record on November 27, 2015