Creating healthy remote stores

  • Outback Stores fruit and vegetables and other products

Marketing strategies such as prominent positioning, attractive presentation and price promotions can all help make healthy choices more visible and appealing to customers [Image: Outback Stores]

Amanda Hill,  Dr Meaghan Christian and Assoc Prof Julie Brimblecombe
Monash University, Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food
Amanda Hill,
Dr Meaghan Christian
and Assoc Prof Julie Brimblecombe

In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander remote communities, the community store plays an important role in supporting community health and wellbeing. Nutrition professionals often work with remote food retailers to create healthier food environments for the communities they service; however, many have limited retail-specific training, and can feel they need better access to tools and evidence to facilitate this.

To address this need, a team of nutrition professionals working in remote Central Australia and remote store management group, Outback Stores, collaborated with our team at Monash University to scale up use of the Store Scout App as part of their usual service delivery. We aimed to see if it could add value to the usual work of nutrition professionals and remote food retailers to improve the healthiness of their stores.

So, what is the Store Scout App? Store Scout was designed and validated to rapidly assess the healthiness of store practice. It looks at how the ‘4Ps of marketing’ – product availability, placement, price and promotion – are used instore to not only promote healthy food and drinks, but also reduce visibility of unhealthy food and drinks.

The app guides the user through questions about the 4Ps across seven food categories and, on completion, generates a practice score out of 100 for the store overall and each food category. It provides real-time feedback to retailers with suggestions on how to improve the healthiness of their store practice, with the ultimate aim of supporting customers to shift their purchasing toward more healthy products.

Sixteen stores across 12 remote communities participated in the project, demonstrating that many remote retailers are engaged in the dialogue about health in their communities and want to know what more they can do to improve.

Nutrition professionals found the app was a valuable tool to facilitate effective collaboration with remote retailers in their practice. Instant access to results allowed them to give immediate feedback on store performance and provide evidence-based suggestions that could improve the store’s healthiness: ‘It's really building those relationships, showing them that you are there and have actionable plans to put in place in the store … it is good to have steps that we're actually going to take now to start moving forward.’

Through a co-design process, remote retailers and nutrition professionals selected actions to implement instore that were feasible and aligned with healthy food retail best practice. Actions implemented in participating stores included placing healthy products more prominently, promoting healthy products through signage and displays and reducing shelf space for unhealthy products. After four months, positive changes were seen in average Store Scout practice scores, both overall and for each food category.

The potential for the app to support monitoring and continuous quality improvement processes at scale in remote stores over time was noted. From a stores group perspective, Anna Murison, Nutrition Manager at Outback Stores, says: ‘The Store Scout App could be utilised to assist excellent store nutrition policy execution. The co-design approach enabled recommendations to be balanced between financial viability and cultural suitability for the community whilst ensuring best practice for nutrition.’

Use of the Store Scout App in usual remote nutrition practice can help increase engagement with food retailers and support implementation of best practice in remote community stores. Healthier remote store environments, in turn, have potential to influence dietary intakes and enhance the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in remote communities.

This project has built continuing partnerships in a program of research dedicated to addressing food inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in remote Australia. It is led by Associate Professor Julie Brimblecombe and the team at Monash University, including the Benchmarking for Healthy Stores project.

For more information on Store Scout App, contact: [email protected]

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