Successful customer intercept interview recruitment outside small and midsize urban food retailers

Jennifer E. Pelletier, Caitlin E. Caspi, Liana R N Schreiber, Darin J. Erickson, Lisa Harnack, Melissa N. Laska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Customer intercept interviews are increasingly used to characterize food purchases at retail food outlets and restaurants; however, methodological procedures, logistical issues and response rates using intercept methods are not well described in the food environment literature. The aims of this manuscript were to 1) describe the development and implementation of a customer intercept interview protocol in a large, NIH-funded study assessing food purchases in small and midsize food retailers in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, 2) describe intercept interview response rates by store type and environmental factors (e.g., neighborhood socioeconomic status, day/time, weather), and 3) compare demographic characteristics (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity) of participants versus non-participants. Methods: After a pilot phase involving 28 stores, a total of 616 interviews were collected from customers exiting 128 stores in fall 2014. The number of eligible customers encountered per hour (a measure of store traffic), participants successfully recruited per hour, and response rates were calculated overall and by store type, neighborhood socio-economic status, day and time of data collection, and weather. Response rates by store type, neighborhood socio-economic status, time and day of data collection, and weather, and characteristics of participants and non-participants were compared using chi-square tests. Results: The overall response rate was 35 %, with significantly higher response rates at corner/small grocery stores (47 %) and dollar stores (46 %) compared to food-gas marts (32 %) and pharmacies (26 %), and for data collection between 4:00-6:00 pm on weekdays (40 %) compared to weekends (32 %). The distribution of race/ethnicity, but not gender, differed between participants and non-participants (p < 0.01), with greater participation rates among those identified as Black versus White. Conclusions: Customer intercept interviews can be successfully used to recruit diverse samples of customers at small and midsize food retailers. Future community-based studies using customer intercept interviews should collect data sufficient to report response rates and consider potential differences between the racial/ethnic composition of the recruited sample and the target population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1050
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 5 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases under Award Number R01DK104348 and CDC under Award Number U48DP005022. Additional funding for formative work was funded by the University of Minnesota Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, as well as the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins, which is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the NIH Office of the Director under award number U54HD070725. Further salary support provided to Dr. Caspi as a postdoctoral fellow was provided by NIH grant UL1TR000114 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and NIH grant 5R25CA163184: NCI Cancer Related Health Disparities Education and Career Development Program. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Author(s).


  • Diet
  • Health promotion
  • Measurement
  • Nutrition
  • Research design in epidemiology


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