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Point-of-purchase prompts for healthy foods

Evidence Rating

Some Evidence

Health Factors

Point-of-purchase or point-of-decision prompts are motivational messages such as signs, posters, front of package labels or shelf labels placed near fruits, vegetables and other items to encourage individuals to purchase these healthier food options. Point-of-purchase prompts can provide specific nutrition information, use symbols to rate or indicate healthy items, or promote selection of specific types of healthy foods. Point-of-purchase prompts for healthy food choices can be implemented in cafeterias, vending machines, grocery stores, or retail locations in worksites, hospitals, schools, or other community venues. Point-of-purchase prompts are often implemented as part of a multi-component approach to improving food environments (US FDA-POP labeling).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased fruit & vegetable consumption

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Improved dietary choices

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that point-of-purchase prompts increase the purchase and consumption of fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods (, ), especially when implemented with other food environment improvements (, AHA-Mozaffarian 2012). Used in conjunction with advertising and promotion of healthy foods, point-of-purchase prompts have been shown to increase healthy food selection (Escaron 2013). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects (Escaron 2013, AHA-Mozaffarian 2012).

Fruit and vegetable consumption and fat intake can be positively affected through environmental strategies such as point-of-decision prompts; effects are less consistent in grocery stores than in settings such as worksites and universities where fewer food choices are available (, ). In a Boston-based study, point-of-purchase traffic light food labels in hospital cafeterias led to healthier choices (). Point-of-purchase signage can also influence children’s food selections (CDC MMWR-School health guidelines 2011) and has been shown to positively affect food choices among university students (). As part of a multi-component worksite intervention, point-of-decision prompts may lower saturated fat and dietary cholesterol intake ().

In grocery stores, point-of-purchase prompts that use symbolic colors, pictures, and text coding to indicate the overall rating of a product’s nutrition content can influence consumer selection of healthy food items (, Swartz 2013, ). As part of a multi-component intervention that includes signage, placement, and product availability strategies, point-of-decision prompts can increase healthy food sales in supermarkets in low income areas (Foster 2014). In some circumstances, front of package labels and other point-of-purchase prompts can encourage food producers to reformulate their products to be healthier (AHA-Mozaffarian 2012).

Culturally relevant food products and culturally sensitive materials and messaging can increase the effectiveness of point-of-purchase prompts, especially in communities with limited access to healthy foods (Escaron 2013).

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Over 30 communities across the country implemented point-of-purchase prompts through CDC Communities Putting Prevention to Work grants (). Point-of-decision prompts are being implemented as part of obesity prevention interventions in school, hospital, and worksite cafeterias. For example, Kaiser Permanente has a Cafeteria Menu Labeling Program at hospitals in California, Hawaii, and Oregon (USDA-Obesity prevention toolkit 2014). Such prompts are also part of the nutrition recommendations for cafeterias at New York University (NYU-Nutrition).

Campaigns for healthy eating and obesity prevention support the use of point-of-decision prompts in retail locations across the country, as in California (USDA-Obesity prevention toolkit 2014). Colorado’s Smart Meal Seal program is an example of an effort that partners with restaurants to provide point-of-decision prompts indicating healthier options (CDC-Obesity in Colorado).

There are several point-of-decision food labelling systems in use across the country. Examples include Guiding Stars, AHA Heart Check, Whole Grains Stamp, Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI), Nutrition Keys, Healthy Ideas, NuVal, Nutrition IQ, Simple Nutrition (AND-Toner), and Smart Choices Program (US FDA-POP labeling). 

Implementation Resources

HI SDH-CHN toolkit - Hawaii State Department of Health (HI SDH). Choose healthy now! (CHN) toolkit.

Food Trust-Supermarket toolkit - The Food Trust. Supermarket strategies to encourage healthy eating: Toolkit.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Story 2008* - Story M, Kaphingst KM, Robinson-O’Brien R, Glanz K. Creating healthy food and eating environments: Policy and environmental approaches. Annual Review of Public Health. 2008;29:253-72.

Buscher 2001* - Buscher L, Martin K, Crocker S. Point-of-purchase messages framed in terms of cost, convenience, taste, and energy improve healthful snack selection in a college foodservice setting. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2001;101(8):909-13.

CDC MMWR-School health guidelines 2011 - National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH). School health guidelines to promote healthy eating and physical activity. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 2011:60(RR-05):1-71.

Freedman 2010* - Freedman MR, Connors R. Point-of-purchase nutrition information influences food-purchasing behaviors of college students: A pilot study. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2010;110(8):1222-6.

Reed 2011* - Reed JA, Powers A, Greenwood M, Smith W, Underwood R. Using “point of decision” messages to intervene on college students’ eating behaviors. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2011;25(5):298-300.

Brehm 2011* - Brehm BJ, Gates DM, Singler M, Succop PA, D’Alessio DA. Environmental changes to control obesity: A randomized controlled trial in manufacturing companies. American Journal of Health Promotion. 2011;25(5):334–40.

AHA-Mozaffarian 2012 - Mozaffarian D, Afshin A, Benowitz NL, et al. Population approaches to improve diet, physical activity, and smoking habits: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA). Circulation. 2012;126(12):1514–63.

Sonnenburg 2013* - Sonnenberg L, Gelsomin E, Levy DE, et al. A traffic light food labeling intervention increases consumer awareness of health and healthy choices at the point-of-purchase. Preventive Medicine. 2013;57(4):253-257.

Hersey 2013* - Hersey JC, Wohlgenant KC, Arsenault JE, Kosa KM, Muth MK. Effects of front-of-package and shelf nutrition labeling systems on consumers. Nutrition Reviews. 2013;1-14.

Escaron 2013 - Escaron AL, Meinen AM, Nitzke SA, Martinez-Donate AP. Supermarket and grocery store-based interventions to promote healthful food choices and eating practices: A systematic review. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2013;10:E50.

Foster 2014 - Foster GD, Karpyn A, Wojtanowski AC, et al. Placement and promotion strategies to increase sales of healthier products in supermarkets in low-income, ethnically diverse neighborhoods: A randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  2014;99(6):1359-1368.

Swartz 2013 - Swartz JJ, Dowray S, Braxton D, Mihas P, Viera AJ. Simplifying healthful choices: A qualitative study of a physical activity based nutrition label format. Nutrition Journal. 2013;12:72.

Seymour 2004* - Seymour JD, Yaroch AL, Serdula M, Blanck HM, Khan LK. Impact of nutrition environmental interventions on point-of-purchase behavior in adults: A review. Preventive Medicine. 2004;39(2):108-136.

Newman 2014* - Newman CL, Howlett E, Burton S. Shopper response to front-of-package nutrition labeling programs: Potential consumer and retail store benefits. Journal of Retailing. 2014;90(1):13-26.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

CDC-Obesity in Colorado - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Colorado's response to obesity: State nutrition, physical activity, and obesity profile.

Bunnell 2012* - Bunnell R, O’Neil D, Soler R, et al. Fifty communities putting prevention to work: Accelerating chronic disease prevention through policy, systems and environmental change. Journal of Community Health. 2012;37(5):1081–90.

US FDA-POP labeling - US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA). Background information on point of purchase (POP) labeling.

AND-Toner - Toner C. Point-of-purchase food labeling systems. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

USDA-Obesity prevention toolkit 2014 - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Center TRT, National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR). SNAP-ED strategies & interventions: An obesity prevention toolkit for states. 2014.

NYU-Nutrition - New York University (NYU). Live well NYU: Nutrition recommendations.

Date Last Updated

Aug 6, 2015