Supermarket Perimeter - August 2020 - 45

FRESH PRODUCE CONSUMPTION has been
stagnant for years. The Brentwood, Mo.-based
Produce for Better Health Foundation believes
behavioral science can help get to the root of that
problem and convince Americans to eat more
fruits and vegetables.
Two PBH officials - Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak,
president and CEO; and Jason Riis, chief
behavioral scientist - made their case in a June
17 workshop during United Fresh Live!, the United
Fresh Produce Association's virtual equivalent of
its annual trade show.
In "The Feelings and Habits that Accelerate Fruit
and Vegetable Consumption: Delivering on the
Desires and Demands of Consumers," Kapsak and
Riis said that by tapping into consumers' emotions
and turning their behaviors into habits, produce
consumption could finally start to tick up.
"People are only eating half of their
recommended fruits and vegetables per day,"
Kapsak said. "They know they need to eat more to
improve their health. Research also shows it can
improve their happiness. Over the last year we've
been on a journey to get people inspired to want
to eat produce more often."
In 2017, PBH began looking at behavioral
science and psychological literature to understand
more about people's emotional connections with
fruits and vegetables. Most people know that
produce is good for their long-term health. What
the latest research points out is that it's also good
short-term, by immediately improving happiness,
appealing to consumers' pride or making other
emotional impacts.
Of course, the more produce consumers eat,
the easier it is for them to start appreciating the
benefits. And for that, Riis said, they need to turn
their produce consumption into a habit.
"Forty-three percent of what people do every
day is done while thinking of something else - it's
a habit, it's automatic," he said. "Half of fruit and
vegetable behaviors are done habitually, and there
is lots for us to learn about that."
VICUSCHKA, MARKSTOUT - STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Forming habits
For a behavior to develop into a habit, several
things are required, Riis said. It's best if it happens
in a similar context, e.g. the same time and
place. It must be repeated extensively, and there
must be some element of reward or enjoyment
involved.
"The lack of new habit formation can be part of
what stalls consumption rises," Riis said. "The key
to creating new habits is repetition, which leads

to automaticity, which is the defining character
of habit."
As an example, Riis cited the making of a tossed
salad for dinner. Many ingredients and actions
are typically involved to make a salad. Add to
that outside distractions (kids, for example), and
it becomes a formidable challenge to produce
just that one element of dinner - unless, that is,
you've done it so often, and enjoyed the payoff,
that it becomes automatic and you make it
mostly without thinking about it, while doing
other things.
Grocery retailers and their supplier partners, Riis
said, can play a critical role in helping consumers
build those habits. Is produce easy for consumers
to remember to buy? Does it always taste the
same? Can it always be found in the same place at
the store? Does it look the same?
"Merchandising becomes critical" to habit
formation, Riis said.
Once those habits are formed, they're hard to
break. In one study, Riis said, more than 80% of
parents reported that, after 14 days, their kids ate
more of a certain fruit or vegetable than they did
at the beginning of the two-week experiment
- even if, at the outset, it wasn't even a fruit or
vegetable that they actually liked.
"It's well-known by nutritionists but
underappreciated by consumers: exposure is
more important than palatability," Riis said.
And psychology plays a crucial role, too, he
added. Kids who are praised for eating their fruits
and vegetables will eat more of them.
Here's another tip to get kids to eat more
fruits and veggies: create what Kapsak calls "first
consumption" opportunities. For instance, some
school systems have experimented with handing
out kids cut bell peppers or other items while they
wait in the school lunch line. The result? A six-fold
increase in consumption in some districts.
Kapsak begins his own day by cutting up fresh
produce and feeding it to his young children.
Members of the Kapsak household also munch on
produce while they're preparing dinner or waiting
for takeout to arrive.
"It becomes part of the meal experience," he said.
As much as PBH and other produce and health
industry members already know about what it
takes to get consumers to eat more fresh fruits
and veggies, they're really only scratching the
surface, Riis said.
"We know a little about them, but fruit and
vegetable habits have been understudied. We're
looking for that next layer of detail, and hope to
supermarketperimeter.com

To create good habits,
you have to make it
easy and fun - like
getting your daily fruit
quota via smoothies.

AUGUST 2020 - 45


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Supermarket Perimeter - August 2020

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