Tesco increases shopper loyalty by helping kids to eat more fruit & veg

Date : 22 February 2021

Hannah Skeggs

Nutrition & Scientific Affairs Manager

In a market where shopper loyalty was very low, Tesco found a way to promote health and keep parents coming back. The retailer’s in-store free fruit initiative also positively impacted fruit and vegetable sales.

(Free Fruit for Kids is paused in stores due to COVID-19)

Before the pandemic impacted behaviour, shoppers were using 12.4 food and grocery stores a month, across 4.7 different channels1, to meet their varying needs for savvy shopping, convenience, and health. This led businesses to trial initiatives that would encourage loyalty and meet increasing shopper demand for health2.

Promoting health can increase revenue, and retain customers

As a population, most of us don’t eat enough fruit and veg and half of British mum’s and dads have ‘given up’ trying to get their kids to eat their 5 A Day2.

But Tesco’s free fruit initiative encourages greater consumption of fruit and veg and, as a bonus, loyal shoppers.

The scheme was the first of its kind by a leading UK retailer and launched in 800 stores in summer 2016. It had increased in reach over subsequent years but due to COVID-19 is currently on pause.

The idea came from Maria Simpson, a Tesco checkout colleague from Lincolnshire, who thought that giving a piece of free fruit to parents for their kids would provide a healthy alternative to sweets and aid a smooth shopping experience!

The scheme satisfies customers on three fronts:

  1. Health: helps children towards their 5 a day while shopping in store.
  2. Ease: keeps children entertained while adults do the shopping.
  3. Cost: 41% perceive healthy, sustainably eating as too expensive, but here kids trying fruit is free of charge.

Giving out free fruit pulls on multiple behavioural levels of product, placement, signposting and incentivisation to help form healthy habits for families. The fruit is placed right at the front of store, actively disrupting shopper missions with positive signage to help explain the concept. Click here to learn more about behaviour levers.

The framing is also important. Free fruit is only available for kids, this makes it special and exclusive for them positioning fruit as a treat they ‘want’ to eat more of, rather than something they ‘should’ eat more of.

Of course, no intervention runs without learnings! In 2019, bananas and oranges were removed from the scheme after safety fears of slips and trips were raised at some stores (think MarioKart!). Apples and pears have been provided instead.

Free fruit incentivises future purchase

Feedback has shown customers really love and engage with Free Fruit for Kids.

As a result, the scheme has driven customer loyalty as well as encouraging children to eat more fruit and making the shopping journey easier for families.

Three quarters of parents said that the initiative has made their shopping trip easier and, where the intervention gets really exciting, it inspires future behaviour change. Research with mumsnet highlighted the positive effect the initiative has had, with 65% of parents saying their children want to eat more fruit thanks to the scheme. Additionally, over 2/3 of shoppers purchased more fruits and vegetables than they used to.

Tesco has now given out over 100 million free pieces of fruit for kids and free carrots for Rudolph were also given away in stores at Christmas! Overall a great initiative to promote positive behaviour change.

Further applications:

Incentivising healthy choices can be a fantastic way to nudge healthy behaviours. This product sampling approach is currently challenging due to COVID-19 restrictions, but opportunities remain!

Food delivery businesses such as Mindful Chef and Ocado are continuing to offer healthy product sampling for consumers and similar provision of free fruit in schools (pandemic permitting) has been fantastic to encourage first trial.

Vegpower highlights that for kids, veg consumption remains especially low. Their research found that kids think vegetables are ‘disgusting, boring or hard to cook.’ The eat them to defeat them campaign has done a fantastic job at starting to change that perception, but I wonder if interventions offering celery sticks, carrots or other veg could be as effective.


IGD ShopperVista. Quarterly channel trends – December 2019
IGD Shopper Vista. Health, nutrition and ethics monthly shopper update – January 2021
A survey of 2,000 parents of children aged up to 10 commissioned by Beko more details at https://www.independent.co.uk/ life-style/food-and-drink/news/healthy-eating-children-fruit-vegetables-five-a-day-families-nutrition-diet-a8344601.html