Behavioural insights

pattern

Alfred Health - Nudging healthier beverage choices

The AlfredProblem

Alfred Health is looking for new ways to encourage healthier diet in the cafes at Alfred Hospitals. To address this challenge, Alfred Health teamed up with their onsite retailers to conduct a series of world-first behavioural insights trials to investigate the impact of relatively small changes to placement and pricing of beverages upon consumer choices and retail profit.

Behavioural insight

Alfred Health estimated that consumers could be encouraged to eat more healthily by using a traffic light system to classify nutritional value and portion size: 'red' drinks (unhealthiest - limit consumption), compared to ‘amber’ (choose carefully) and 'green' (best choice) beverages.

Furthermore, Alfred Health reorganised the placement of food and drink in its cafes so that red items were out of sight and green items were given greater prominence. Behavioural science suggests that people do not consistently purchase food and drinks based only on 'rational' factors such as price, taste and healthiness alone. Rather, purchasing behaviour can also be driven by 'irrational' factors such as the visual prominence of the item on sale.

Solution

In partnership with Deakin University, Monash University, VicHealth and the Behavioural Insights Team (UK), data was collected and analysed to compare 'red', 'amber' and 'green' beverage sales at baseline and during intervention to help understand the impact of each trial.

Importantly, with each trial there was no significant difference in the total drinks sold (ensuring it was financially viable for the retailer), as consumers simply changed their choices towards healthier options.

Placement trial 1

In the main fully-serviced café, 'red' drinks were removed from display. The drinks were still available for purchase but were stored in fridges below the counter and out of sight. Total drink sales were unchanged; people kept buying drinks at the same rate however shifted towards more healthy choices.

Result

There was a 28% decrease in the proportion of 'red' drink sold while the proportion of 'amber' and 'green' drinks increased

Placement trial 2

In another on-site café, 'red' drinks were removed from self-service refrigerators and stored in fridges behind the counter out of sight available only upon request. Again, total drink sales were unchanged and people shifted towards more healthy drinks choices.

Result

71% decrease in the proportion of 'red' drink sold while the proportion of 'amber' and 'green' drinks increased

Pricing trial 1

In the on-site convenience store, the price of ‘red’ drinks was increased by 20%, while 'green' and 'amber' drinks remained at the same price. There was no significant difference in total drink sales but again evidence that consumers substituted their drinks to healthier choices.

Result

16% decrease in the proportion of 'red' drink sold while the proportion of 'amber' and 'green' drinks increased

Pricing trial 2

In half of the vending machines on-site, the price of 'red' drinks was increased by 20% while 'amber' and 'green' drinks remained at the same price (randomized control trial). Consistent with the experiences of the other trials, there was no significant difference in total drink sales and substitution towards healthier choices.

Result

35% decrease in the proportion of ‘red’ drink sold, the proportion of 'amber' also reduced while 'green' drinks increased

Overall, close to 37,000 fewer ‘red’ drinks are being sold at The Alfred each year as a result of these simple environmental changes.

Alfred Health is especially proud of the goodwill show by its retailers is testing these approaches and implementing them as standard practice for the long term. These trials have demonstrated that fairly simple environmental changes can lead to immediate and lasting changes in consumer behaviour while maintaining financial viability for retailers.

The trials have received strong interest locally, nationally and even internationally with results relevant to not just in the public health community, but the heads of other hospitals, retailers, and policymakers more widely.

Further details

See the full trial results for more information.