Growing healthy-drink sales with messaging

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Messages focusing on the attributes of a beverage can increase sales – but not always, according to two pilot tests conducted by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) in the US.

NACS examined how messaging and assortment within cooler doors could encourage sales of healthy beverages in convenience stores. The pilot tests were developed in conjunction the Project on Nutrition and Wellness and the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

Healthy-cooler planogram

NACS implemented a two-phase pilot test to assess beverage-case layout changes and functional messaging to sell lower-calorie beverages at two convenience stores. US Marine Mart locations on bases in Pendleton, California, and in Quantico, Virginia, were chosen as the two test sites, with two additional stores selected as control sites.

The first phase involved changing the beverage-case planogram to move zero- and low-calorie beverages at eye level and/or to the top of the case, while higher-calorie beverages were shifted to the bottom of the case.

With the new planogram still in place, the second phase involved adding cling displays on the beverage-cooler doors with functional messages such as ‘Hydrate like you mean it’ for bottled water. The goal was to quickly provide a cue to time-starved customers and potentially change their buying behaviour by advertising additional benefits related to the beverage.

Water, enhanced waters, functional beverages and diet-soda sales increased by 21.3 per cent over the control weeks – and the rise did not come at the expense of other cooler items. Total purchase of goods increased by 11.7 per cent in retail sales over the control weeks.

Juice messaging

NACS examined messaging specific to juice in two pilot tests at 21 Ricker’s locations in the state of Indiana to determine if a targeted messaging campaign would increase awareness and sales of bottled 100 per cent juice at convenience stores.

Ricker’s developed creative designs for the pilot, which employed three health-centred messages, based on messaging developed by the Juice Products Association. The graphics featured tomato juice, orange juice and apple juice, with taglines reading ‘Drink your veggies’, ‘Get juiced early’ and ‘Ultimate energy drink!’

In both tests, juice sales declined slightly (2.4 per cent in each test), demonstrating that a simple awareness campaign alone does not always lead to an increase in sales.

Lessons learned

NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard says communicating the functional benefits of specific food and beverage choices can help grow sales of healthier options, but there are other considerations as well in incentivising these purchases.

“Since consumer behaviour and choice-making are influenced by a variety of factors, such as taste and cost, awareness campaigns may need to be coupled with promotional pricing or other strategies to effectively increase merchandise sales,” he said.