Retail food stores play an important role in communities. Among populations who are at risk for obesity, the retail food environment can serve as an opportunity to encourage healthy dietary behaviors. A collaborative study led by Dr. Jennifer Sanchez-Flack, a recent PhD graduate of the SDSU-UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health (health behavior) and now assistant professor at UNC at Asheville, examined in-store environmental factors and their association with fruit and vegetable (FV) purchasing among Hispanics.
Research has shown that even with the low cost of FVs in Hispanic-focused grocery stores, also known as tiendas, Hispanics still have a low FV intake. This study aimed to understand other factors such as in-store environmental characteristics contributing to FV purchasing among Hispanics. The researchers recruited Hispanic customers, a population that does not currently meet dietary guidelines. This study was part of a larger study funded by the National Cancer Institute (R01CA140326; PI: Guadalupe X. Ayala), “El Valor de Nuestra Salud”, and was supported through a diversity supplement awarded to Dr. Sanchez-Flack (3R01CA140326-03S2) The researchers looked at participants’ self-reported dollars spent on FVs. Store audits assessed the availability of fresh, canned, and frozen FVs. Additionally, the number and type of fresh FV displays and the amount of display space dedicated to fresh FV were examined.
The results indicated that greater availability of FVs was associated with fruit and vegetable purchasing; customers spent $0.36 more with each additional FV available. In addition, each additional square foot of display of FVs was associated with a $0.02 increase in FV purchasing. However, with each additional fresh FV display, there was a $0.29 decrease in FV purchasing. The study also found that men spent $3.69 less on FV in contrast to women.
The research findings indicate that characteristics of the in-store environment such as display space of FV can influence customers’ purchasing behaviors. Furthermore, the study fills in gaps in the literature regarding Hispanic consumers’ FV purchasing behaviors and unique in-store environmental characteristics. Assessing in-store environmental characteristics can be beneficial in identifying ways to improve dietary behaviors among Hispanics and other understudied racial/ethnic groups.