Woman shopping in supermarket

Children's health and food

Engaging with wholesalers and convenience stores to drive uptake of healthier options

26 March 2021

Demonstrating how simple and practical changes can help influence retailers to purchase healthier options

In brief

This report looks at the learnings and insights from our Good Food Retail pilot, which pioneered a new way of improving healthier options in wholesale. It details the approach we took and preliminary results from the interventions launched by Bestway, the UK’s largest independent wholesale cash and carry. The trial focused on the creation a healthier choices range selected from existing products which were subject to a number of intervention tactics to encourage retailers to purchase more of these healthier options.

It has allowed us to gain more insight into retailer behaviour and what are the effective ways to engage with wholesalers.


Executive summary

We’re working with Rice Marketing to support wholesalers to drive up their sales of healthier products into local convenience stores, and with convenience stores to drive up their sales of healthier products to the public.

Together, we ran an initial pilot in Bestway wholesale depot, Croydon, to demonstrate how simple and practical changes to positioning, pricing, and marketing can help influence retailers to purchase healthier options. Building off this tested approach, there’s room for scale across other wholesalers to stem the flow of unhealthy products across the boroughs.

We also ran an initial pilot with convenience stores, which resulted in an increased range of healthier items available in store and an uplift in sales of healthier products. It emphasised that small and simple changes can have a significant impact on purchasing behaviour.

Our aim is to expand this approach and tap into a network of local convenience stores to make a case for the commercial benefit in changing what is stocked in store. We will test a range of levers, from promotion to merchandising, to impact the uplift of healthier products locally. Like wholesalers, we want to show that promoting health is not just good for people but also good for profit.

Summary of key insights from the trials


increase of sales across the Healthier Options range


items sold from the Healthier Options range during the trials

The interventions in the wholesaler’s pilot included the creation of a healthy choices range, changes to pricing and promotion, availability, shelf labelling and changes to merchandising.


Key findings

  • It is possible to influence the healthiness of retailer buying habits. The volume sales of the Healthier Options range excluding soft drinks increased by 7,277 items over the promotion period
  • It is possible to position health at the heart of the existing offer
  • Impactful trials can be simple and sustainable
  • Retailers will stock healthy choices if consumers demand them, but will need support from suppliers and wholesalers if they don’t
  • Retailers are driven by cash margin so will want to earn the same or more margin from healthier lines than unhealthy lines
  • The Depot Manager and their team are a key part to any successful launch, but there needs to be regular input from them as the voice of their customers
  • Retailers are reluctant to stock healthier products if they are expensive, especially in low-income areas where disposable income is limited
  • Bestway’s greatest learning was understanding what products would be most likely to succeed. These are established, low-risk brands with a healthier variant and newer brands in healthier categories who have proven their success elsewhere but not yet fully established in convenience

This project has demonstrated that healthy options are good for business and we will be working with members to share this important message as well as bringing together key wholesalers and suppliers to grow the share of healthier options.

James Bielby Chief Executive, The Federation of Wholesale Distributors

In collaboration with