A ‘nudge’ in the right direction? Which interventions to promote fruit and vegetable consumption are successful?

Eating fruit and vegetables is widely known to have strong health benefits, and has even been linked to the extension of human life​. But how can consumers be ‘nudged’ to consume more of them?

A study in the journal Food Quality and Preference looked at 39 nudge interventions (see boxout) between the years 2008 and 2022 and graded them according to effectiveness. These studies were graded as either ‘weak,’ ‘moderate,’ or ‘strong’ on eight dimensions: selecting bias, study design, confounders, blinding, data collection methods, withdrawals and drop-outs, intervention integrity and analyses.

Nudge interventions

Nudge theory is the idea that shaping the environment, and changing the ‘choice architecture’ available to consumers, can influence their behaviour. Nudge interventions can be used to influence consumers to make healthier or more sustainable decisions.

Nudge interventions in the past have included increasing font sizes on menus​ to influence consumers to buy low-calorie meals and placing a gold star saying ‘most popular’​ next to the veggie option to promote sustainable eating.

The studies differed in the form of nudging they used, with some changing the availability or position of fruit and vegetable products in the area of purchase; some studies tried to change the presentation through packaging and advertising of fruit and vegetable products, and provide more information to consumers; some studies focused on portion and cutlery sizes, and some focused on making the functionality of both packaging and environment towards being more conducive to the accessibility of fruit and veggies. Interventions targeted towards children, adolescents and adults were all assessed.