Sugar-free lanes no sweet deal

LISA KNIGHT
Last updated 08:42 18/07/2014

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Even though more than a third of New Zealanders want supermarkets to have confectionery-free checkout lanes, it would be a "dark path" to take, a Manawatu business lecturer says.

Tesco, Britain's largest supermarket chain, implemented a decision to remove all confectionery from its checkout lanes by the end of the year, and a survey prompted by the move shows that 34.1 per cent of New Zealanders think supermarkets here should follow its example.

But Massey University organisational sociologist Dr Andrew Dickson, who is also an expert in weight loss and obesity concerns, said that with only 34 per cent of people surveyed wanting the products to be removed, it didn't make business sense for supermarkets to do so.

Supermarkets would lose more in sales than what they would gain from new shoppers, Dickson said.

"I can't see the business rationale behind it . . . there wouldn't be enough overall benefit on sales."

Using this initiative as a way to differentiate from other supermarkets was a "dark path" to walk down, and moved more towards organic or health food shops, Dickson said.

While some "weight-conscious consumers" might think it was a good idea, the initiative would not influence shoppers' impulse-buy decisions, he said.

"It's not going to alter drives or impulses; people still want to satisfy their desire."

Dickson said that although Tesco was trying to influence people in good ways, he was unsure why it had made this move, because it was a "far too simplistic reading of a very complex situation".

Pioneer New World store manager Jason Carter said the supermarket had brought in one sugar-free checkout lane about three years ago.

"We haven't had any customer comments, good, bad or otherwise," he said.

Of the four supermarkets in Palmerston North visited by the Manawatu Standard yesterday, all had at least one sugar-free checkout.

Countdown provides sugar-free lanes in its stores throughout the country.

The survey, by Horizon Research, showed that while a third of people supported the move, 17.7 per cent didn't think checkouts should go sugar-free.

About 422,100 adults nationwide said they would use a checkout if it did not have sugary products and 9.9 per cent say they already had.

It also showed that 32.8 per cent of people said the move would make them feel better about where they shopped.

A combined 22 per cent of adults said they would "definitely" or "probably" shop at a supermarket which offered sugar- free checkouts, but 71.2 per cent said it would make no difference to where they shopped.

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Those most definite about wanting to shop at a supermarket that made the change were those who regularly shopped at Four Square, followed by those who shopped at Countdown, Pak'n Save, and New World.

Countdown was the regular supermarket for 38.7 per cent of respondents, Pak'n Save 35 per cent and New World 24.6 per cent.

Some 21.7 per cent of shoppers bought sweet goods at checkouts, but not on impulse, and say it is convenient for them to be able to select them at the checkout counter.

The sugar-free move was favoured slightly more by those primarily responsible for household decisions and those in older age groups.

- Manawatu Standard

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