Speaking at a seminar last month organised by the UK’s Coronary Prevention Group, Joanne Floyd, a senior manager responsible for improving health at Tesco, described a pilot study to assess the nutritional profiles of its customers’ shopping baskets.
Using the Ofcom nutrient profiling model, which regulates broadcast advertisements of children’s food, in combination with its Clubcard sales data, Tesco is getting a better understanding of the healthiness of purchases by consumers around the country.
“The advantage of using Ofcom is the ability to give us a single score of products,” said Floyd. “It makes it easier for us to rank products, to understand relativity within product groups, which traffic light labelling doesn’t do.”
Target healthy eating
While still at an early stage of development, Floyd said the model could eventually be used to target healthy eating messages and the promotion of ‘healthier food’ to vulnerable groups of people.
“We applied Ofcom profiling to every product we sell that’s own-label and brands,” she said.
Tesco has used this approach to score over 20,000 products during 2013 and 2014. It has now extended this analysis to shoppers’ baskets and trolleys to get an average measure of their healthiness. Around 2M shopper baskets were assessed.
Using a numerical ranking, in which anything below four is judged to be healthy and anything above four, unhealthy, the top line findings of the survey found that just over half (51%) of baskets scored less than four over the year. The proportion of healthy baskets peak during July and “reach the lowest point during Christmas and shoot back up again in January”, said Floyd.
Tesco’s marketing strategy
Eventually the nutrient profiling methodology could form an important part of Tesco’s marketing strategy, said Floyd: “It can help us start setting targets and measuring the sorts of activities that we are introducing to help customers make healthier choices.”
The results have shown that healthiest baskets are bought online and the least healthy baskets are bought in Tesco’s Express stores.
Regional and other demographic comparisons show the healthiest baskets are bought in London and by pensioners and older adults, while families with young children tend to have the least healthy baskets. “That’s a worry that we are looking at in our strategy,” Floyd commented.
Alcohol purchases are excluded from assessments because, with the model used, they would actually make baskets appear healthier than they are, Floyd said.