When customers were persuaded to buy two items instead of one — even though the price of the item was the same — they bought up to 18 percent more of the item, and it shows Swedish study.
-The grocery industry has a psychological advantage over the consumer. They know what drives a consumer to shop, points out Linda Monsen-Merksdahl, parliamentary politician for Ap.
“Then I assume they also have knowledge of what it takes for a consumer to shop less,” continues Merksdahl.
In order to reduce food waste on a large scale, she is very clear about who should take action.
“At first, I think the bottle nozzle now refers to the grocery industry,” says Merksdahl.
But the grocery industry rejects the criticism and believes it has long done too much to reduce food waste.
– It can lead to increased food waste
Recently, the government-appointed Food Waste Commission delivered its report with recommendations on how to reduce food waste in this country, to Minister of Climate and Environment Andreas Bjelland Eriksen (AFP) and Minister of Agriculture and Food Geir Bolestad (S.B).
The volume of food waste in Norway reached 450,000 tons in 2021. It is estimated that the measures proposed by this committee have the potential to reduce a total equivalent to 350,000 tons, or 75 percent of the planned food waste, if all goes well.
This was stated by the Chairman of the Committee and Director of NHO Food and Drink, Peter Haas-Bruback, when he presented the report, according to the NTB.
Linda Munson-Merksdahl believes the grocery industry – which was well represented on the food waste committee – “could have been tougher on itself”.
“I think the industry absolves itself of its responsibility and points out what others should do,” says Merksdahl.
Research shows that Merksdahl is right that the grocery industry has a lot to contribute to reducing food waste.
– A recent research study I conducted in Sweden showed that consumers are highly influenced by multi-buy offers such as “two for one”. When these displays are used for highly perishable products such as fruits, vegetables, bread and dairy products, it can lead to increased food waste, Christina Gravert tells Dagsavisen.
She is an associate professor at the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen.
This is how customers were affected
In collaboration with two large grocery chains in Sweden, Gravert and several other companies conducted a trial in eight stores, without customers knowing anything about it. Four different display signs with slightly different messages were placed in the stores. But the unit price of the goods they advertised was the same all the time.
However, customers have sometimes responded very differently to different signs.
“I will gladly go home with you if you eat” was the message on the first advertising banner “2 for 30 NOK” and “Regular price 15.95 NOK”.
On the second sign, only “2 for NOK 30” was written, while “Regular price NOK 15.95” was written in much larger numbers and letters than on the first sign.
The third sign says “1 for 15 NOK” and “Regular price 15.95 NOK” in small print.
The fourth sign had the message “2 for NOK 30” and “Normal price NOK 15.95” in small print.
When using the first, second, and third mark, customers purchased 10 to 18 percent less of the item in question than when using the fourth mark.
– Automatic decisions
– This can be explained by a theory from behavioral economics. We all make a lot of spontaneous decisions every day, and this leads to making mistakes, says Christina Gravert.
(Behavioral economics is a science that studies how individuals make economic decisions in practice. The field is a cross between psychology and microeconomics, according to Wikipedia. Jorn. Note.)
“We see a red sticker and think it must be a good deal,” continues Gravert.
– Our reflective decision-making system, which is aligned with our values and makes long-term decisions, is only used for important decisions, not grocery shopping.
We also see that “being careful about wasting food” is of no use, because consumers get distracted when shopping, and therefore they do not think much about wasting food. This may be different for those on a very limited budget, but most people aren't careful when shopping.
Like Aps Linda Monsen Merkesdal, Gravert also points to the grocery industry as an important player in reducing food waste.
Of course, grocery stores can influence how much consumers buy. They should therefore take responsibility for not using sales methods for highly perishable foods. They can use toilet paper and pasta, things that can be eaten later, says Gravert.
– He knows tricks well
The grocery industry uses a number of different tactics to get customers to buy more food, says Martine Karlsson, a partner at Nudgelab — “a behavioral agency that combines strong market understanding with real research expertise.”
“It's reasonable to assume that any grocery store is designed to maximize profit,” Carlson says.
– Everything from the treats in the checkout area, the paid placement of merchandise at eye level, or how the movement pattern in the store is designed to take customers through different product categories, with the goal of leaving with their shopping baskets as full as possible.
Our shopping behavior is a well-studied area where a number of investigations and studies have been conducted into what makes us buy more and more. That Norwegian food workers have data on this and know the tricks well is probably an understatement, Carlson continues.
– Three packs for two and larger packs at a better price per kilo are known ways to use price as an incentive for customers to buy more than they might need – and perhaps not be able to eat, so they end up wasting food.
Carlson says responsibility for food waste cannot lie solely with the individual consumer.
– The system must be changed – that is, the shops, and the way goods are priced and displayed, if you want real change, which is ultimately a political decision.
– Huge responsibility in the industry
– As the research shows, a great deal of responsibility falls on the shoulders of the grocery industry, notes Abs Linden Monsen Merksdal.
– Here, the grocery industry has great opportunities to point itself out and come up with solutions.
Merksdahl believes that how the grocery industry responds to this will have an impact on whether it will be viewed as a responsible social actor in the future.
Following up on her comments and information provided by Gravert and Carlsson, Dagsavisen posed the following questions to grocery industry representatives:
Do you use different “tricks” to get customers to buy more food than they need and possibly be able to eat?
Is it right for you to make changes that can help customers buy less food – to reduce food waste?
He refuses to manipulate
Bendik Solum Whist, Grocery Industry Manager at Virke, answers Dagsavisen's question as follows:
-We are interested in reducing food waste in all parts of the value chain, and have been working systematically on this for many years. West says it is ahistorical to claim that customers are being manipulated.
– The grocery trade has been taking measures to reduce food waste for more than 15 years, and is a sector that has reduced food waste the most since 2015, West continues.
– It is also important to have a correct picture of the causes of food waste at home in the kitchen. Here can be added the significant, long-term and expensive work of the industry to convert from bar codes to new 2D codes with dates on each individual item. This work is a prerequisite for reducing food industry waste and being able to reduce waste in customers' homes.
Dagsavisen also received a response from Linda Vist, commercial industry manager at NHO Service and Trade.
– We have seen that the grocery industry is interested in reducing food waste, and that it supports all measures that can contribute to this, says Vest.
– A number of good measures have already been taken that have led to significant reductions, something the industry will continue to work on through good inventory control, good ordering procedures, better order forecasts, and not least lower prices for value-added goods. Short shelf life.
– It works continuously
Rema 1000 answers Dagsavisen's question as follows:
– We are constantly working to deal with food waste both in our operations, and also after the goods leave the store, says Emily Fagg, Head of Social Responsibility and Sustainability at Rema 1000.
– Some of the measures we take to prevent food waste among consumers are to adapt the size of goods to customer needs to a greater extent, develop packaging that extends the shelf life and, not least, work with good recycling and ordering procedures that ensure Våge continues a longer shelf life after the goods leave the store.
-We also have good numbers that show that we are moving in the right direction with our food waste. In 2022, for example, we saved 42 million items by reducing the prices of goods with a short shelf life, among other things, and in 2023 we donated about 1 million kilograms of food to charities.
Knut Lutens, Senior Consultant at Coop Norge, turns to Virke for answers to Dagsavisen's questions. So does Ken Soiland, head of communications at NorgesGruppen.
– This issue concerns the entire industry and not NorgesGruppen specifically, says Soiland.
– Highlight your business
Peter Haas Bruback, who led the Food Waste Commission, points out that the commission's proposals would have consequences for the grocery industry if the government accepts the proposals.
– The Commission's proposal for the main measure is to introduce a due diligence requirement and strengthen the industry agreement, which affects both private and public institutions, says Broback.
The Industry Agreement on Reducing Food Waste was signed in 2017 by five ministries and twelve organizations from the entire food industry.
– The due diligence requirement and enhanced industry agreement will require companies to conduct risk assessments and implement tailored measures to avoid food waste in their own business and across the value chain – including towards the consumer. Proback believes this will be a reliable and cost-effective move.
Examples of what a due diligence assessment should include are assessments of how quantity reductions on food products with limited shelf lives and different consumer packaging will impact food waste.
– So it would be completely wrong to say that the grocery sector does not also highlight its own business, Bruback points out.
The committee also proposes other regulatory measures such as donation obligations and price reduction requirements in grocery stores. Parliament has previously requested that the Food Donation Act include donation obligations and reporting obligations. He adds that these two considerations were well taken care of in the committee's proposal.
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