Study: Grocers Overly-Promoting Junk
While healthy and fresh messages are appearing all over grocery floors these days, a study from the U.K. still finds supermarkets’ promotions biased in favor of foods high in fat, sugar and/or salt.
The three-year study from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Business School examined pricing techniques used by grocers to see if they led to excessive consumption of unhealthy foods. The mechanisms included multi-buy offers such as "buy one get one free" (BOGOF), "three for the price of two," and price discounts.
In all, prices and nutrition data across 6,000 food and drink items sold over a year by Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Ocado were analyzed.
The study found a bias towards sugary products for price promotions and that straight price discounts were on average more skewed towards unhealthy products. BOGOF offers and other more prominent deals tended to be distinctly skewed towards foods particularly high in fat, sugar and salt.
The one area found to be biased on average toward healthier foods were multi-buys.
Citing stats showing that almost a quarter of the U.K. population is now classified as obese, Professor Paul Dobson, head of Norwich Business School at UEA, urged grocers in a statement to "practice responsible marketing" while ensuring healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable for consumers.
"What is required is a comprehensive move away from price promoting unhealthy foods rather than token gestures for marketing spin," said Prof. Dobson. "It is simply irresponsible for supermarkets to overly promote foods with high sugar and fat content."
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium, said, "There’s no such thing as an unhealthy food, only an unhealthy diet. … Retailers have been encouraging people to eat more fruit and vegetables with innovative products, prominent promotions and competitive pricing for years."
- Supermarket offers: a healthy choice for consumers? – University of East Anglia – University of East Anglia
- Overpromoting Unhealthy? – Prepared Foods
- How buy one, get one free deals fuel the obesity crisis: Offers ‘favour unhealthy food’ – Daily Mail
- Food industry and supermarkets back healthy eating drive – The Guardian
Is there a natural predisposition by grocers to use “unhealthy” foods in promotions? Should grocers reassess promotional strategies in light of ongoing obesity concerns in society?