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Decision-Making Processes While Online Grocery Shopping

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT03248583
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : August 14, 2017
Last Update Posted : May 13, 2019
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Julia Hormes, University at Albany

Brief Summary:

Individuals living with food insecurity are disproportionately affected by overweight and obesity and associated chronic health problems. There remains a lack of sustainable and scalable interventions targeting widespread barriers to access to healthy foods in this population to increase the nutritional quality of foods purchased for preparation and consumption at home.

This randomized controlled proof-of-principle trial was designed to examine the feasibility and initial efficacy of a "default option" in enhancing the nutritional quality of groceries selected via the online shopping service of a local grocery store under conditions that mimic the financial constraints typical of individuals living with food insecurity.

In behavioral economics, the "default option" refers to the option a consumer selects if no active choice is made. The notion of the default option is based on the concept of "asymmetrical" or "libertarian paternalism," which seeks to subtly shift consumer behavior in a manner that promotes welfare, but without overtly interfering with the individual's freedom to choose.

It was hypothesized that the "default" option effectively increases the nutritional quality of foods purchased online, compared to monetary incentives and psychoeducation about nutrition.

Female undergraduate students (n = 60) selected food for one week using the online shopping service of a local grocery store with a budget corresponding to maximum weekly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Before completing the task again, participants were randomized to: (1) a small monetary "incentive" for selecting groceries that meet nutritional guidelines (n = 17), (2) an "educational" brochure (n = 24), or (3) a "default" pre-filled online shopping cart containing a nutritionally balanced selection of groceries to which they could freely make changes (n = 18).

Primary outcome measures capture the nutritional quality of groceries selected/ purchased.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Nutrition Poor Other: Default option Other: Psychoeducation Other: Incentive Not Applicable

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Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Actual Enrollment : 60 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Single (Participant)
Primary Purpose: Prevention
Official Title: Decision-Making Processes While Online Grocery Shopping
Actual Study Start Date : January 13, 2016
Actual Primary Completion Date : September 29, 2016
Actual Study Completion Date : September 29, 2016

Arm Intervention/treatment
Experimental: Default Other: Default option

The "default option" is a behavioral economics construct that refers to the option a consumer selects if no active choice is made (e.g. opt-out 401K plans, which significantly increase enrollment, compared to active sign up).

Participants in the default condition were presented with a pre-filled online shopping cart containing a combination of groceries that meet macro- and micronutrient requirements for their gender and age, and told that they are free to delete, add, and exchange any item they wish to finalize their selections.

Active Comparator: Psychoeducation Other: Psychoeducation
Participants in the psychoeducation condition were instructed to read a brief psychoeducational brochure adapted from materials currently utilized by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance ("Eat Smart New York").

Active Comparator: Incentive Other: Incentive
Participants in the incentive condition were informed that they will receive a gift card to a major retailer of their choice if they select groceries that meet recommended nutritional guidelines for macro- and micronutrient requirements. Participants were given examples of macro- and micronutrients to ensure that the instructions were clear.

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. Nutritional quality [ Time Frame: Single laboratory visit, <1.5 hours ]
    The Thrifty Food Plan Calculator (TFPC) was used to quantify the nutritional quality of groceries selected by study participants. The TFPC was developed using U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition and consumption data and is designed to have users input information about the relative amount of money spent on various categories of food and provides comprehensive information on caloric, macro-, and micronutrient content of the foods selected based on participant age and gender.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

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Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years and older   (Adult, Older Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   Female
Gender Based Eligibility:   Yes
Gender Eligibility Description:   Participant eligibility was based in part on self-representation of gender identity as female.
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Inclusion Criteria:

  • age 18 or older
  • fluent in written and spoken English
  • able to provide informed consent

Exclusion Criteria:

  • significant dietary restrictions (i.e., meat avoidance, food allergies, religious dietary restrictions, etc.)
  • likely presence of current eating disorder diagnosis (score >/= 2 on SCOFF screening measure)
Publications automatically indexed to this study by Identifier (NCT Number):
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Responsible Party: Julia Hormes, Assistant Professor of Psychology, University at Albany Identifier: NCT03248583    
Other Study ID Numbers: 16-E-005-01
First Posted: August 14, 2017    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: May 13, 2019
Last Verified: May 2019
Individual Participant Data (IPD) Sharing Statement:
Plan to Share IPD: Undecided

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Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Drug Product: No
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Device Product: No
Keywords provided by Julia Hormes, University at Albany:
Additional relevant MeSH terms:
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Nutrition Disorders