Deakin Uni media release: Supermarkets urged to end “heavy promotion of unhealthy foods”

Posted by Media Release Agency on 18th May 2020

Researchers from Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre have put out a study that claims Australia’s biggest supermarket chains have disadvantaged shoppers by “encouraging poor dietary habits”.

The study found that soft drinks, chips, chocolates and lollies are given prominent shelf-space, and given more frequent price discounts than healthier food lines, and are given more important shelf-placement in end-of-aisle displays and near checkouts.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Gary Sacks said the survey, funded by The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre, found that it was almost impossible to pay for groceries “without being exposed to unhealthy food and drinks and 80% of end-of-aisle displays for food and drinks contained unhealthy items.”, he said.

“The recent rush on products during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the central role of supermarkets as the main source of food for most Australian households,” said Associate Professor Sacks, a Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow.

“We also know that up to 35% of what Australians eat is considered unhealthy. If we are to improve Australian diets we need supermarkets to play a greater role in encouraging people to select healthy options.”

The report identified that supermarkets can help Australians move toward healthy and nutritious diets by:

  • Providing healthier checkouts that do not display chocolate and soft drinks
  • Replacing unhealthy items with healthy food and drinks at end-of-aisle displays
  • Allocating less shelf-space to unhealthy items
  • Offering fewer discounts on unhealthy food and drinks

The survey findings published on Monday 18 May 2020 in the report, Inside our supermarkets: Assessment of the healthiness of Australian supermarkets are the result of in-store audits by the Deakin University researchers of 104 stores throughout Victoria, including 26 Woolworths supermarkets, 26 Coles supermarkets, 26 Aldi supermarkets and 26 independent supermarkets.

The Deakin University researchers measured shelf space allocated to foods on display at checkouts, in end-of-aisle displays and the price promotions of healthy versus unhealthy foods.

“Aldi stores were less likely to promote unhealthy foods at end-of-aisle displays and checkouts compared to the other major chains, but there was little difference between Coles and Woolworths on key indicators of in-store healthiness,” Associate Professor Sacks said.

Deakin University have done a fast food index - Assoc Prof Gary ...
Associate Professor Sacks, Faculty of Health – Deakin University

“If supermarkets and the processed food industry don’t take action to improve their practices, then government should be ready to step in to ensure the supermarket environment encourages more healthy choices,” Sacks said.