waitrose partner

Waitrose shoppers are to be fitted with eye-tracking headgear to measure their “unconscious reactions” to signage promoting purchases of loose fruit & veg.

The shoppers will be “wearing hardware” as part of the study, which will track their gaze, identifying which of the ‘choose loose’ in-store marketing has been viewed and for how long.

Waitrose is working with climate action NGO Wrap on the study, which said it hoped the findings would encourage more shoppers to choose unpackaged fresh produce, and in turn reduce household food waste and plastic packaging.

The headgear involved is much like a regular pair of glasses, “very lightweight with just small sensors in the lenses to pick up on eye movements” a Wrap spokeswoman said. They are attached by wire to a device in the participant’s pocket, which communicates with the researcher’s tablet, where eye movements are tracked.

Fifteen shoppers will take part in the eye-tracking element of the trial, with the findings combined with the results of 300 shopper exit interviews, which will be undertaken at the trial store in Thatcham near Reading and a ‘control’ store.

“We are particularly interested in the signage that shoppers will see. However, the glasses will pick up everything the shopper is viewing,” the spokeswoman added.

Wrap has developed a messaging toolkit as part of the campaign, which has been adopted by the supermarkets on in-store signage. Wrap said supermarkets could “help bridge the intention-action gap” by promoting the idea that buying loose “allows for greater variety and flexibility in purchasing, potentially saving them money compared to buying larger packs”.

The charity estimated that if all apples, potatoes, and bananas were sold loose in the UK, it could prevent 60,000 tonnes of food waste, cut plastic packaging by 8,800 tonnes, and save more than 80,000 tonnes of CO2e each year.

“This trial is part of a wider strategy and pledge to offer more loose fruit & veg in store, which also reduces plastic waste,” said Catherine Loader, sustainability manager at Waitrose. The study would help the supermarket “understand how signage and customer communications influences purchase of loose fruit & veg” she added.

“We know from our consumer research that selling more loose, pricing being clear, making loose an attractive offer and engaging with customers on the benefits of buying loose are key ways retailers can take action and it’s crucial that more follow Waitrose’s example,” said Estelle Herszenhorn, head of food systems transformation at Wrap. “But we, as shoppers, need to embrace loose produce and be open to change.

“Actions like this trial show us the possibilities of how retailers and shoppers can change together, to begin the massive shift needed in how fruit & veg is sold and our ingrained shopping habits,” she added.

Waitrose has set out an ambition to halve food waste in its operations and supply chains by 2030 and is working to help customers do so at home by the same date.