England Marketing has been commissioned by the London Produce Show to undertake a rolling programme of in-store mystery shopping visits amongst the top nine UK food retailers: Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, M&S, Waitrose, Co-op, Aldi and Lidl. This follows a similar undertaking in the US by Produce Business.
One mystery shopping visit will be undertaken each month, in a different UK city each time, as we gather insight on the presentation of the fresh produce in-store and also gently test the knowledge of the staff working in the fresh produce aisles.
Whilst we understand that rating the appearance of aisles can be subjective, England Marketing has tried to be as scientific as possible. Using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 was the lowest mark to award and 5 the highest, those visiting the stores were fully briefed on the scales for data collection and detailed descriptors were given for each score.
The series of in-store visits began in Cambridge in May 2015, where Morrisons was scored the highest for its fresh produce over all, particularly for its product range, attractiveness of display, and packaging style. Morrisons was closely followed by Tesco, which scored highly for its in-store messaging and signage, and for its well displayed fresh produce.
The supermarkets rated lowest were Aldi and Lidl, particularly scoring lower for the range at the aisle ends, the attractiveness of display and helpfulness of staff. Whereas the staff in M&S and Waitrose went out of their way to be helpful.
England Marketing also wanted to test the knowledge of staff throughout this ongoing research, and so each month will be devising one topical question which shall be put to those working in the fresh produce aisles. In May the question was regarding food waste, and what happens the fresh produce once it is past its sell by date.
It was surprising that many of the staff working in the fresh produce aisles were unaware of the supermarkets policies regarding food waste and when questioned provided incorrect information or admitted to not knowing.
This may be particularly surprising when you consider that every supermarket, except Lidl, has their food waste policies freely available on their websites. And perhaps raises the question of how much importance do supermarkets actually place on food waste and in turn communicating its policies both internally as well as externally – food for thought!