New-research-shows-profitability-of-healthy-changes-in-corner-stores-

New research shows profitability of healthy changes in corner stores

Fresh fruits and vegetables are not always on the grocery list when on a trip to the neighborhood corner store, in large part because many corner store owners don't stock produce thinking they aren't as profitable as the longer-shelf-life snack foods and beverages.

However, fruits and vegetables may be more profitable for corner stores than was once thought, according to a study by the Tulane Prevention Research Center (PRC) recently published in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. Additionally, promotions for fruits and vegetables may also be key in driving their sales.

In order to determine the profitability of fresh produce, one neighborhood store in New Orleans underwent small changes in April 2010. The store was supplied with a produce cooler and provided with promotional activities, like postcards mailed to residents, taste-testings outside the store, and announcements through local organizations, to let the neighborhood know about the store's new food offerings.

Analyzing store sales data before and after the changes, the researchers found that produce accounted for a greater percentage of gross store profits (3%) than energy-dense snack foods (2%), including salty snacks, candy, cookies, and pastries combined.

Additionally, a customer survey found that those who had been exposed to one or more promotions about the changes were much more likely to have noticed the cooler than those who were not exposed to one of the promotional activities. Specifically, 80% of those exposed to a promotional component noticed the cooler versus 49% of those who were not exposed. According to the average monthly inventory before and after the changes in the store, there was a 21% increase in the number of fresh fruits and vegetables displayed.

"The biggest take away from this paper is the profitability of produce and that the multiple components of the intervention – installation of the cooler, promotional items and activities – together could encourage store owners to promote and stock healthier items," said Lauren Dunaway, one of the study's authors and a former program manager at the Tulane PRC.

The study authors said their work suggests that corner stores that supply fresh healthy foods could be increasing their profitability while at the same time improving access to healthy foods.

"The findings of the profitability of produce could be used by organizations working in neighborhoods to improve food access," said Dunaway. "Not only is the increased availability of fruits and vegetables important for the health of the community, but also has the potential to benefit their neighborhood businesses."

While the study examined only one store's profits, the findings are an in-depth exploration into the potential for other corner stores to alter shelf spaces and food offerings. The authors suggest that more research needs to be conducted on the profitability of fruits and vegetables in other parts of the country, both rural and urban. Additionally, items such as tobacco, beer and sodas are still some of the most profitable and prolific items in corner stores. In order to change that, more needs to be done to advocate and educate for healthier options.

By Iman Naim, Tulane PRC graduate assistant
December 2016

(Photo: Tulane PRC image of store assessments)

Topics:   food environment , diet , nutrition , community health , health communication

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