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  • Writer's pictureJulie de Vaan

Responsible food choices: A supermarket strategy based on behavioural insights

Updated: Jun 16

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners



  • How can Coca-Cola motivate consumers in supermarkets to choose sugar-free options?


  • We investigate how consumer choices are made in supermarkets, provide strategic advice, and translate it into practical tips and communication materials to encourage sugar-free choices in supermarkets.


  • Together with Coca-Cola's marketers and account managers, we make the choice for sugar-free options easier. We see the purchase of sugar-free beverages increase.



A responsible beverage offering is one of the major priorities in 'This is forward,' Coca-Cola's sustainability plan in Europe, Australia, the Pacific, and Indonesia. That is why Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) is making every effort to make sugar-free drinks, such as Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, even more successful. Catrien Dix, formerly responsible for category growth and shopper marketing in supermarkets, even hopes that sugar-free drinks will dominate the supermarket shelves. In collaboration with retailers, Coca-Cola aims to achieve this growth in sugar-free soft drinks.

However, motivating consumers to choose sugar-free options is a significant challenge, as Catrien also acknowledges. The question remains how consumers can be best encouraged to choose sugar-free soft drinks in supermarkets.


To determine how Coca-Cola can motivate consumers to choose sugar-free options in supermarkets, we first examine how their food choices are made. Based on this, we provide Coca-Cola with strategic advice to stimulate the choice for sugar-free options. Together with retailers, we then translate these recommendations into tangible communication materials and actions to positively influence consumer choices in the supermarket.

In the research on consumer behavior in supermarkets, we apply existing psychological knowledge about food choices in practice. We do this based on specific consumer and insights from the retail industry and an extensive analysis of the situation, including interviews and observations in practice.

This way, we find that consumers in supermarkets mainly make choices on autopilot, without consciously thinking about it. That's why they are more likely to fall back on what they are used to or are more easily influenced by their surroundings: what is the easiest, most attractive, or most obvious choice, for example? Consumers who do make a conscious decision in the soft drink aisle are primarily influenced by taste and functionality.

These insights form the basis for a strategy to influence consumer decision-making processes through the right techniques, communication, and means. We establish guidelines and a checklist to effectively stimulate the choice for sugar-free options in supermarkets, such as for advertisements, shelf communication, and shelf layout. Lenne van Asselen, Senior Category Manager, Thijs de Vos, Associate Director Customer Activation, and Behavior Expert Julie de Vaan explain this tailor-made strategy to retailers in a short video.

This is an excerpt from the video in which we share the key insights on consumer behavior in supermarkets (in Dutch).

In addition, we collaborate with Jumbo on the summer campaign 'Fris op z'n best' based on our behavioral insights. The focus here is on taste and functionality. With these communication materials on and around the shelves, "lekker en verfrissend" ("delicious and refreshing") is linked to responsible choices in the soft drink aisle without disrupting the autopilot mode.

communication materials from the 'Fris op z'n best' campaign by Jumbo supermarket, intended to encourage the choice for sugar-free soft drinks.

These are some of the communication materials from the 'Fris op z'n best' campaign by Jumbo supermarket.


In addition to adjusting the taste, packaging, and portion size, the marketers and account managers responsible for retail can go a step further to make consumers choose sugar-free soft drinks more often. 'To achieve that, we don't just look at the consumer through our marketing lens. We collaborate with behavioral scientists to make the choice as easy as possible on the shop floor,' says Marleen Metselaar, Senior Channel Marketing Manager.

Based on our guidelines and practical tips, marketers and account managers are working hard to make sugar-free options the most attractive and easiest choice. For example, the focus in promotional flyers is now clearly on sugar-free options (approximately two out of three displayed beverages are sugar-free), and the campaign 'No sugar, great taste' emphasizes that choosing sugar-free options is easy, varied, and just as delicious.

Compared to 2020, the sales volume of sugar-free beverages from Coca-Cola in the Netherlands has increased from 44% to 48% in 2022. While other trials to promote sugar-free options in supermarkets led to confusion among consumers, lower sales, and lower revenue, this does not seem to be the case with supermarket activations based on our thoughtful behavioral strategy. For example, the 'Fris op z'n best' campaign at Jumbo, with an index of an average of 16.75 (normally 3-5), resulted in an exceptional increase in the purchase ratio of sugar-free soft drinks.

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