The new HFSS laws ban the placement of unhealthy foods on checkouts, aisle ends and in store entrances. For retailers, this raises two key questions: what to do with the vacated space? And where to put those HFSS foods? In a few UK stores, trials are underway to find the answers. Photos courtesy of Shopfloor Insights.
Alternative gondola ends
Few positions can rival gondola ends when it comes to boosting in-store sales. Given HFSS foods will be banned from these sites, supermarkets are looking for new ways to use this space.
It’s important because these end-of-aisle bays don’t just boost sales of the products in them, but also lift the entire category. According to Shopper Intelligence, shoppers who see a gondola end promo are on average 2.6 times more likely to visit that category’s main aisle. So what can retailers do if these bays no longer contain entire categories, like cakes and confectionery?
In many cases, there are some compliant products in the category that can signpost to the wider aisle. Tesco for example, is filling its bays with foods that have been reformulated to be HFSS-friendly (such as Nestlé and Kellogg’s cereals, pictured above). It’s also trialling booze as a replacement – a category that has the financial muscle to pay for some “nice, flashy displays” says Bryan Roberts, founder of Shopfloor Insights.
In Tesco Chesham, Guinness trialled large digital screens as part of a Six Nations rugby promotion. Whitley Neill did a similar thing in Tesco Royston.
At Sainsbury’s, the gondola end is gone. Or, at least, it is until you move three feet around the corner. There you’ll find it containing the exact same HFSS promotions but in the first bay of the aisle.
The idea seems to rely on the rather vague definitions in the HFSS legislation of what exactly a gondola end is. The risk to Sainsbury’s is that the law is later tightened up to cover a certain radius from the aisle end, suggests Nick Theodore, founder and CEO of Virtual Store Trials, a technology company carrying out HFSS trials of its own.
For now, Sainsbury’s seems to be one of the few retailers willing to test the boundaries on it. “All of the tests we did [moved the products to] the middle of the aisle for the reason that people thought it would be too brazen and too much of a ‘two fingers up’ to just turn the promo end around,” says Theodore.
Roberts at Shopfloor Insights suggests the tactic will be effective at capturing attention, but will open Sainsbury’s up to “criticism of obeying the letter of the law but not the spirit”.
Sainsbury’s did not respond to requests for comment.
In-aisle promotional bays
Sainsbury’s is working with Pringles to use branded shelf-edge strips and bus stop signage to create a display that’s eye-catching from a distance. Morrisons is trialling a similar premise with Cadbury.
At Asda, digital screens are being used to catch the attention of shoppers in the biscuits and cakes aisle. While it has been doing this for a couple of years now, you could argue this is “quite far-sighted HFSS preparation” says Roberts, given the categories involved are yoghurt, biscuits, crisps and confectionery – all of which are affected by HFSS rules.
The problem is that in-aisle bays only create a small sales uplift of between 3% and 8%, according to Virtual Store Trials – a far cry from the significant incremental sales these brands are used to when appearing on gondola ends.
“The main reason it doesn’t drive more spend is that it creates a very value-driven shopper for people who would have come down the aisle anyway, thus reducing their spend,” explains Theodore.
“Plus, given this is not in keeping with the spirit of the HFSS legislation, it hasn’t been a viable option.”
So-called ‘wellness bays’ are the solution most likely to get the seal of approval from health campaigners. The idea is to replace promo bays of HFSS foods with promos on healthy foods that have low-calorie or protein-rich credentials. Tesco in particular has been testing out these bays in its in-store trials.
They seem to work, boosting category sales by more than 5%, according to Virtual Store Trials. They are particularly effective on products like post-gym snacks, it found.
But there is another consideration: these bays create a significant ‘halo effect’ for products next to them. In some cases, sales have been found to double.
“We found some of the really unhealthy products you might put next to a wellness bay do incredibly well,” says Theodore. “So the next bit of space everybody could be fighting for is not in the healthy bay, but right next to it.”
It’s a familiar tale. Twenty years ago in the soft drinks aisle, all brands wanted to be next to Coca-Cola due to its halo effect. It would be an ironic twist for wellness bays to take up the same role.