Anna-Maria Saarela

Anna-Maria Saarela

Savonia University of Applied Sciences, Finland

Title: Suggestions of supporting a healthy nutrition policy at grocery stores


Anna-Maria Saarela (PhD, nutrition, MSc., nutrition; MSc., biochemistry; authorized dietician; food safety officer) is the senior research lecturer, the student counselor and the international coordinator of Savonia UAS. Anna-Maria has also competence on food product development, consumer behavior, consumer food choices at a grocery store and multidimensional research approaches. Anna-Maria has more than 14 years’ experience educating, also in English, supervising final reports of the students (> 50), carrying scientific projects with industry and academia in relation to food science and management, food product development, nutrition and natural sciences. Anna-Maria is also an active writer, such as the editor and the writer of the nationwide textbook about food processing for universities.


Aims: Weight management is affected by food choice. It is important to show in practice how challenging an environment a grocery store is to consumers from a weight management perspective. Thus, based on verbalizations and observations of consumers made in a real-life supermarket setting, it is important to point out how environments of grocery stores could support consumers’ daily and healthier food choices. Background: The study was a part of a project “Consumers in the weight management market” (2009-2011) funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. Methods: The study subjects were recruited by delivering 1000 questionnaires in Nov-Dec at the K-Citymarket Kolmisoppi, Kuopio. The subjects (n=36, age 18-65) were recruited to represent consumers of varied experience in weight management during their lifespan. The subjects’ shopping behaviour was studied using verbal analysis protocol combined with wireless audio-visual observation, questionnaires and interviews in the K-Citymarket in Apr-May 2010. For two consecutive shopping tasks, the study subjects were given a shopping list of 11 food categories. During the first task, they were asked to select a product they usually buy and during the second task, a product they would use for weight management. The level of nutritional knowledge of the study subjects was also assessed and related to the choices made. Results: According to the observations, the consumers made their shopping decisions routinely as there were none stimuli available at a supermarket in relation to healthy choices apart from versatile, abundant and small-sized labels all over food packages. The consumers had several challenges while choosing food, such as the time taken (maximum 225 seconds) to find a suitable product among all the options of a wide product category, for example, 459 ready meals per product category with the energy variation from 30 to 330 kcal/100g, and understanding all package labels properly, such as the GDA-label in relation to the nutrition content table.