“Aisle” Buy This One, Ashley Hurst Studies Grocery Store Marketing

Published on June 18, 2009

Fellowship Allows Entrepreneurship Junior to Further Nutrition Research

Entrepreneurship/nutrition junior Ashley Hurst's summer research project with two UH Bauer faculty members will focus on consumer behavior at grocery stores.

Entrepreneurship/nutrition junior Ashley Hurst's summer research project with two UH Bauer faculty members will focus on consumer behavior at grocery stores.

To some, a grocery store is a place to pick up items to stock a pantry or whip up a meal, but to entrepreneurship junior Ashley Hurst, it’s the ideal setting for research.

Hurst, who is also majoring in nutrition, is a student in the Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the UH Bauer College of Business. She is the college’s only student to receive a University of Houston Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF-UH) for 2009. The program provides funding for UH sophomores, juniors and seniors to participate in focused, full-time research over a 10-week period under the direction of university faculty.

Hurst will be working with Clinical Professor Jacqueline Kacen and James Hess, C. T. Bauer Professor of Marketing Science and Marketing Ph.D. Coordinator, on a project to understand the factors that lead to shoppers’ impulsive purchasing decisions, planned purchasing decisions, or decisions not to buy a product in the supermarket.

She will participate in research meetings discussing the recruitment of participants, the collection of data and the analysis of the data. Hurst will also conduct in-store observations of research subjects. The combination of Hurst’s dual major in both entrepreneurship and nutrition along with her interest in diet and health make her a natural candidate to assist Hess and Kacen in their research.

“Ashley’s intrinsic motivation and enthusiasm to understand consumers’ dietary decisions make her a valuable member of the research team, and her warm and engaging personality will help to make the shoppers feel at ease having a research assistant shadow them while they shop,” Hess added.

Hurst will be shadowing 20 shoppers four times each and will note the direction they take in the store, things they look at and purchase and the things they look at but don’t buy. Participants will also be given a questionnaire to describe their mood and emotions during their trip to the grocery store.

“I am looking forward to presenting the information,” Hurst said. “I’m looking forward to having the information I have accumulated over the summer and having the knowledge of what I did.”

Hurst added that not only will the information gathered during the project should help grocery stores in how they set up displays and marketers in how they market their items, but the data will help her understand how shoppers consider nutritional concerns in the grocery store setting.

As an entrepreneurship student, Hurst is in the process of starting her own business, Wellness by Design. The nutrition/exercise consulting business will consist of a team of experts who develop wellness plans for corporations to help them reduce health costs.

“I’ve always had an interest in grocery shopping,” Hurst said. “It’s about understanding the client and how they operate. Once they get to know themselves better, they can do a better job.”

By Hannah Eastham