- Seventy-nine percent of adults said supermarkets should make it easier for them to eat healthier, according to a Center for Science in the Public Interest survey of more than 1,000 shoppers. Many respondents said this could be achieved by replacing candy and junk food with nutritious items at checkout.
- The study found 51% of adults purchased candy or soda at checkout recently. Three-quarters of them expressed regret after doing so.
- About 75% of shoppers said it’s hard for parents to shop with children because there is so much junk food in the grocery store. CSPI found 80% of parents responded that they’d use a healthy checkout lane at the grocery store if there was one available.
It remains to be seen whether healthy checkout lanes will catch on at the supermarket. Consumers want healthier snacks at checkout instead of the customary candy, cola and chips. This presents a challenge: how can grocers balance profitability at the checkout lane with the shopper's desire for healthier options?
Some retailers are adding more healthy items at checkout. CVS is expanding an initiative to promote healthy products by moving candy displays away from the prime real estate near the checkout counters. About 25% of the shelf space near the drugstore retailer’s checkouts is now stocked with healthier foods such as granola bars and nuts. Offering a contrasting point of view, however, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that Walgreens Boots Alliance said “It isn’t a retailer’s job to keep shoppers from their vices," and that consumers should be able to make unhealthy choices if they want to.
Just 15% of consumers surveyed said supermarkets put the interest of the shopper first, while 55% think stores prioritize food manufacturers before the shopper, according to the CSPI study. Given razor-thin supermarket profit margins, which typically hover around the 2% mark, it’s necessary for retailers to operate the checkout zone as a profit center by stocking high-margin impulse items.
Still, more retailers like Aldi and Target are experimenting with healthier items in the checkout area. Aldi has rolled out what it calls Healthier Checklanes that replace candy and chocolates with single-serve nuts, trail mixes, dried fruits and granola bars. In a company press release, Jason Hart, Aldi CEO, said that “By introducing Healthier Checklanes… we are doing our part to remove temptation at checkout. At Aldi, we truly care about our customers, and we’re responding with guilt-free checkout zones and increased food options [shoppers] can feel good about.”
The trend toward healthier eating, coupled with consumer sentiments uncovered by the CSPI study, could motivate more retailers to deploy healthier checkout lane initiatives. Retailers must keep in mind it’s not an “all or nothing” proposition. They can take a page from CVS’ playbook and just replace a portion of the checkout space with healthier options. They also could install a handful of “family-friendly” lanes, as CSPI suggests, to better accommodate customers shopping with children and those looking to avoid sweet temptation.