News From the Farm | Week of November 18, 2013

While many types of ‘fast food’ are heavily marketed and are made from ingredients that enjoy various government subsidies, fruits and vegetables don’t have their own lobbies, federal subsidies or ad campaigns. Subtle signals, and sometimes not-so-subtle messages in grocery stores generally nudge shoppers towards the processed foods and as a result, a healthy proportion of produce doesn’t always end up in the grocery cart.

Social scientists are experimenting with signals that might point shoppers towards the produce aisle.  For example, in one experiment a strip of yellow duct tape across the center of the grocery carts told the shopper to “put their fruits and vegetables in the front half of the cart!” Produce sales jumped…

Arrows on the floor pointing to the produce aisle, or signs in carts that told the shopper how much produce the average customer bought, again resulted in a 10% jump in produce sales on average (they had to redo their signs…) and a whopping 91% raise in produce purchases for shoppers participating in the government nutrition program called Women, Infants and Children. 

Social scientists call this field of study “nudge marketing.” Their efforts to nudge people back into the produce aisle seem like a positive thing, bringing a little bit of balance into the nudging taking place in the shopping environment. 

We appreciate our CSA members who already know that they love produce and who are developing adventuresome palates and skillful produce cooking techniques in the kitchen. Our members would have skewed the experiment a bit. No need for produce in the front of the yellow duck tape in the shopping cart, our families are getting all of their produce from the CSA box!

— Judith Redmond