To eat or not to eat, that is the question…

Posted: 28 March 2022 | | No comments yet

People choose healthier food over unhealthier options when such items are placed in certain locations in supermarkets, according to findings from two new studies.

Supermarket choice

Placements of healthy and unhealthy items in supermarkets may be highly effective in encouraging healthier purchasing behaviours, suggest two new studies published in PLOS Medicine this week.

In the first study, researchers evaluated the availability, placement, promotions and signage of healthier products within three major UK supermarket chains. They found that increasing the availability of healthier options within a category was associated with significant changes in purchasing. For instance, stocking low-fat chips next to regular chips decreased the sales of regular, while stocking more lower calorie biscuits increased sales by 18 percent and decreased purchases of regular, higher calorie biscuits by four percent.

The second study evaluated a UK grocery store that removed seasonal chocolates and candy from prominent locations in the weeks leading up to Easter. In 34 intervention stores, free-standing promotional displays of seasonal chocolate confectionery products were removed, although the candies were available elsewhere in the store. The researchers found that units of confectionery sales increased by 18 percent in the stores during the pre-Easter period but only five percent in the stores that removed seasonal placements. The absolute difference in confectionery sales between control and intervention stores was approximately 21 kilograms per store per week, which translated to fewer total calories in customers’ baskets, the study states.

“This research has important implications for the development of policies by retailers or governments to bring dietary intakes closer to recommendations for good health,” the authors write. “Strategies aiming at informing customers about healthier options are unlikely to work in isolation.”

“The Government in England has announced new legislation to restrict promotions of foods high in sugars, salt and saturated fat (HFSS) in prominent locations. This project established a partnership with a large UK food retailer to evaluate an intervention to remove seasonal chocolate confectionery from prominent areas of the store, specifically end-of-aisles and entrance areas, over seven weeks before the Easter period,” said Carmen Piernas, one of the authors. “These results from a ‘real world’ intervention provide promising evidence that the proposed legislation in England to restrict promotions of less healthy items in prominent locations may help reduce over-consumption.” 

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