Grocery Store Podcast about Omega-3 Fatty Acids Influences Shopping Behaviors: A Pilot Study

Objectives: To determine whether listening to a podcast about omega-3 fatty acids (n-3s) while grocery shopping increased shoppers' awareness about and purchases of seafood and other foods rich in n-3s.

Methods: Repeated-measures design with a convenience sample (n = 56) of grocery shoppers who listened to the podcast while shopping. Pre- and post-intervention semi-structured interviews were conducted. The Theory of Reasoned Action was the study's framework.

Results: Shoppers were primarily females (mean age, 41 ± 15.3 years). Their perceived ability to buy [t(55) = 6.27,P < .0001] and perceived importance regarding buying [t(55) = 3.38, P < .01] n-3–rich foods improved significantly. At least 1 n-3 rich food (mean, 1.5 ± 0.8) was purchased by 30%, and 79% planned future purchases.

Conclusion and Implications: Podcasts may effectively communicate nutrition information. More research with a larger sample size is needed to evaluate the effects of the podcast on long-term changes in shopping behavior.


Alex’s Notes: No doubt, smartphones are changing the way we do things, especially because they can be used to listen to podcasts like Super Human Radio when you are on the go. Better yet, you can have your friends and family listen to them for a brief course of nutrition education! That’s what the current study’s authors wanted to do anyway. They were fed up the misinformation surrounding omega-3s that is promoted in the media. As they state,

“The authors believe that popular media communications are often inaccurate because they fail to make these differentiations, overstate preliminary research findings, and erroneously recommend increased consumption of ALA-rich foods to glean benefits that have been associated with foods rich in DHA and EPA.”

To solve this dilemma, they created a 5-minute podcast that would help clarify these misconceptions, stress the importance of increased omega-3 intake, and teach which foods were good sources with an emphasis on fatty fish and seafood. They intercepted customers at a local supermarket, asked if they wanted to participate, gathered some basic personal info, and visually inspected what they bought after listening to the podcast.

56 shoppers ended up agreeing to participate (average age 41-years and most were women). A total of 44 shoppers (79%) reported that they intended to increase their purchase of the n-3–rich foods, but only 17 of these shoppers (39%) did so. However, 50 of them (89%) enjoyed the podcast.

There isn’t anything special about this study or its results. I believed it important simply because it proposed a novel means of providing nutrition education within grocery stores. Podcasts are cheap and readily available. Given that the average person makes 200-300 food decisions per day, anything that can help make some of these choices a healthy one is okay in my books. Moreover, it is one thing to sit your friend down at home or in the car and listen to Carl rant about GMOs only to have them forget about the podcast upon leaving and heading to the store. Yet, if you hear this stuff quite literally while reaching for it, would you still reach? The point-of-purchase is a very crucial last-minute influencer.

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