‘Choose organic, choose taste’. A shelf-edge label displaying this text next to organic Sweet Palermo pointed peppers resulted in 25% more purchases in Dutch supermarkets. This is one of the findings from a 2023 nudging study. “Extra focus works,” concludes retail expert Bart Fischer.
In the Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Union (EU) wants organic farming to account for 25% of all farmed land by 2030, and the target for the Netherlands is 15%. But progress towards achieving these percentages is still far too slow, which is why action plans are needed to stimulate both the production and consumption of organic products. In this context, the EU has co-funded a campaign by the Dutch industry association Bionext, called De mooiste boodschap is bio (‘Organic is best’). The campaign included a nudging study.
Nudging can help
The study was aimed at gaining better insight into whether nudging encourages consumers to buy more organic produce and, if so, which nudges are most effective. “As soon as people step inside a supermarket, they seem to change from conscious citizens into bargain-hungry shoppers. A subtle nudge can help to remind those people why organic is best,” Fischer explains.
The retail expert executed the campaign on Bionext’s behalf. Three types of organic produce – Sweet Palermo pointed peppers, cucumbers and truss tomatoes – were highlighted for a 15-week period in a total of 11 Albert Heijn and Jumbo stores. Fischer: “We used shelf-edge labels with three different messages, each for five weeks. The messages were ‘Choose organic, choose taste’, ‘95% of people buy organic’ and ‘Thanks for choosing organic’. We wanted to test which type of nudge had the most effect on shoppers.”
Consumers are susceptible to framing
The most effective message was the one related to taste, scoring 125%. The second message scored 121% and the third message scored 106%, so all three messages had a positive impact on sales of the organic products. “I’m not surprised that the taste-related message had the most success. It’s a form of positive framing because it highlights how buying the product will benefit the consumers themselves. People are susceptible to that,” Fischer comments.
Extra focus works
The retail expert firmly believes that sales of organic products can be positively affected not only by nudging, but by any extra in-store focus. “Previous research has shown that more shelf space also leads to more sales. And I think that the benefits of organic products could be made even clearer to consumers on the packaging.”
Retailers are open to stimulating organics
So how will the findings from the nudging study be used? According to Fischer, the results could help grocery retailers in the Netherlands and beyond to further stimulate the purchase of organic products. “They are certainly open to doing this. For example, one Dutch supermarket chain has already switched to organic for all its dairy products, while other retailers have chosen an organic-only offering for white cabbage, beetroot or little gems, for instance,” says the retail expert. “Moreover, the amount of shelf space for organic products is larger than the market share implies. Above all, retailers are being held back by consumers; they must be willing to buy organic. We still have a long way to go to reach the targets of 15% or 25%.”
A minimum requirement for organic production
For this reason, Fischer is an advocate of more drastic action. “I would like to see the government set a minimum requirement for organic production, just as with the minimum wage. If we all agree that nature-inclusive farming is important, we should work towards that together. And supermarkets shouldn’t have an issue with that because it would re-establish a level playing field,” he states.
“I’m not surprised that the taste-related nudge had the most success”