Should grocers take a lead role supporting weight loss efforts online?
Americans are dealing with an ongoing obesity crisis and surveys continually show the majority want to lose weight. Can grocers help now that they offer increased online access?
Researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) recently sought to identify design features online grocery stores could add “to support the goal of eating healthier for weight loss.” The study was conducted in light of the rapid growth in online grocery.
Their findings were recently published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.
The researchers first interviewed adults about eating healthy for weight loss to learn about their shopping habits, with a focus on their nutrition-related needs. The study found that shoppers struggled with planning, purchasing and preparing meals that are tasty, nutritious, easy to cook and affordable.
Based on the initial findings, researchers identified four features online grocery stores could include to support shoppers: (1) a shopping cart nutrition rating tool, (2) a healthy meal planning tool, (3) an interactive healthy eating inspiration aisle and (4) healthy shopping preference settings.
Study participants provided their thoughts on each shopping feature and said they preferred the following:
- A “healthy shopping” setting that would allow them to set their personal preferences for the types of foods they want to purchase in limited amounts (e.g., sugary foods, salty foods, etc.) and the types of foods they want to purchase in plentiful amounts (e.g., fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.).
- A healthy meal planning tool that would provide meal ideas and recipes tailored to their family’s taste, nutrition, convenience and price preferences.
- A nutrition cart tool that would rate the nutrition level of the shopping cart and provide recommendations for how to improve the quality (e.g., swap lightly salted or unsalted peanuts for regular salted peanuts).
A perusal of various websites shows grocers offering guides to healthy eating, access to nutritional specialists, balanced meal planning tips and help with special diets, such as vegan, keto-friendly or gluten-free, but weight-loss tips tied to healthy eating appeared to be absent. A wide range of popular subscription-driven apps, including Noom, WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and My Fitness Pal, offer personalized nutrition and diet plans.
- Designing online grocery stores to support those striving to eat healthy for weight loss – University of Minnesota
- Designing online grocery stores to support healthy eating for weight loss – Public Health Nutrition
- Health apps can help — if users can afford them – YourObserver
- Two in five Americans gained weight during the pandemic – Ipsos
- Online shoppers bombarded with unhealthy marketing, while bacon salt levels branded “astonishing” – Nutrition Insight
- Survey: 60 Percent of Americans Want to Feel Healthier and Lose Weight in 2021 – The Beet
- Over 73% of U.S. Adults Overweight or Obese – Medpage Today
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why don’t grocers offer more advice and online tools that can help shoppers with weight management? What do you think of the online feature suggestions cited in the study?