Can curiosity help sell more produce?

This study suggests that satisfying customers’ curiosity can increase sales


Grocers have a wide range of strategies when it comes to convincing customers to buy more fruits and vegetables.

Providing nutritional information, using colourful signage and price promotions have all proven to be tried and true methods. But what about curiosity?

In a study, “Using Curiosity to Increase the Choice of Should Options”, Evan Polman, assistant marketing professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, used a novel approach to get consumers to purchase more produce. The results? A 10% increase in sales in four weeks.



For the study, the university partnered with a locally owned grocery store called Metcalfe’s, which has three locations across Madison.

Researchers posted friendly jokes (“Why did the beet blush?”) near produce displays and placed the punchline (“because he saw the salad dressing.”) close by on the bag closures. Ten different jokes were rotates throughout the week, and the study ran for four weeks. They found consumers bought more produce when a joke was posted than when not.

Grocers can make it a transaction—providing customers with the joke and revealing “the closure to the curiosity” (punchline) when customers purchase fruits and vegetables, said Polman.

The method kept customers in the produce section longer, and because they were close with the produce and handling it, they were also more likely to buy. “At a minimum, they considered buying it,” said Polman.

Polman initially wanted to stick the punchline to the jokes onto the produce, but couldn’t because it would have meant the stickers would have needed to be edible.

The study just looked at one idea of curiosity and Polman says there are probably many different ways to use curiosity to get people to be more interested in fruits and vegetables one being more variety.

“I think our method is a creative one,” he said. “It’s one I don’t think had been done before.”

Another aspect of the study had the researchers offer 100 people the choice between a plain fortune cookie, and one dipped in chocolate. Around 80% of participants went with the chocolate-covered cookie.

However, when researches later approached 100 different people and offered them the choices, this time with the promise that the plain fortune cookie contained a “fortune” about the participant, 71% of participants couldn’t resist the fortune-filled plain cookie.

The hope is that companies can use these strategies to help people make healthier choices.


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