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Cut-price food offers unexpected bonus for shoppers

Bargain food offers are creating a new wave of “Ready Steady Cook” home chefs.

food and cooking “Yellow‚Äźsticker shopping” - shopping that targets food that has been reduced in price because it is approaching its expiry date - can encourage people to try new types of food and be experimental with ingredients, according to new research.

The practice has been the topic of research by academics, led by Sarah Kelsey, senior lecturer at Leeds Beckett University's Leeds Business School.

Their findings, based on the analysis of online chat forums dedicated to the subject of yellow-sticker shopping, show that yellow-sticker shopping goes far beyond simply trying to reduce expenditure on food.

Sarah said making the most of reduced-price food required consumer competence and creativity.
"The supply of goods when yellow-sticker shopping is uncertain and unpredictable. It cannot be undertaken with a “shopping list” of required items.

"The findings from our paper reveal just how competent, creative and skilful yellow-sticker shoppers are in negotiating the unconventional rhythms of the supermarket and the unpredictable products available and in putting them to use within the home.

"Particular sets of knowledge and understanding are required on the part of the consumer in relation to storage, preparation and use of unplanned and often disconnected ingredients."

Supermarkets often place yellow label food in different places within the store, disrupting normal product placement.

Random end of aisle chillers have taken on increased significance as they become the place where reduced-price items are temporarily shelved once they have been re-labelled.

Sarah added: "What our research also highlights is that being able to utilise the reduced-price item is an important aspect of successful yellow-sticker shopping.

"The scope for retailers to capitalise on this utility – on what can potentially be done with the price-reduced food – is currently unrealised.

"Retailers are aware that there are many shoppers that are interested in purchasing perishable short-dated food, but this facet of food retailing is not the most visually attractive.

"This is perhaps why supermarkets ‘hide’ this aspect of their operations in dark corners of the store or disperse the activity across the shop floor.

"There are further ways that yellow-sticker food might be marketed and signposted within store to tap into the potential creativity and improvisation of the culinary experience of consumers as well as just making yellow-sticker food easier to locate and purchase within store."

Supermarkets might also be wary of creating issues by highlighting "bargain" food within their stores.

"There may also be some retailer distaste for the shopper behaviour that sometimes accompanies yellow-sticker shopping, such as crowding around the reduced food, or being very competitive in pursuit of a bargain," said Sarah.

"It is clear is that there is a recognised need, demand and appreciation of this type of food that clearly nods to the powerful influence that price has on the buying decisions of consumers."

However, despite this shopper enthusiasm for regular price discounts during the day, not all retailers are convinced of their customers’ acceptance of such frequent price changes, according to a new report from Displaydata and Planet Retail RNG.

The research team, which examined 968 forum posts from 326 contributors between March 2013 and July 2016, will now look into how the market for yellow-sticker food is created and managed within supermarkets and will try to answer questions such as who shops for yellow-sticker food, when, how often and in what quantity.

The research will then follow yellow-sticker food into the homes of shoppers to explore how this food is appropriated within domestic food practices such as meal planning, food storage, preparation, cooking, consumption and disposal.

If you are a yellow-sticker shopper, a supermarket ‘reducer’, or a retailer and would like to get involved in this research or to learn more about it, contact s.kelsey@leedsbeckett.ac.uk.
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