Collaboration with Newcastle University and University of Cambridge.
Food choices are often determined by stimuli from our immediate surroundings, including strategic placement in shops to encourage impulse purchases. Recently a number of UK supermarkets have voluntarily committed to providing healthier checkout foods. The aim of this study, led by University of Cambridge with ISMH, was to examine the nature, implementation and impact of current UK supermarket checkout food policies and to explore customer views on these policies. Mixed methods were used, including observational research, analysis of foods on display using the Nutrient Profile Model, time series analyses, and focus groups with parents and carers of primary school aged children. Results from the study to date indicate that checkout policies vary across supermarket groups. Supermarkets with clear and consistent policies were found to display significantly fewer food products in general, and significantly fewer less healthy food products, at checkouts. Controlled interrupted time-series analyses were conducted of changes in purchases of common supermarket checkout foods in the 14 four-weekly periods before, and the 13 four-weekly periods after, implementation of checkout food policies – in units purchased per percentage market share. As different supermarket groups implemented policies at different times, separate analyses were conducted for each group. Supermarket groups that did not change their policies during the study period were used as comparators (n=2). Results were synthesised using random-effects meta-analyses. In meta-analyses, implementation of supermarket checkout food policies was associated with a statistically significant decrease in purchases of common checkout foods of 1 37 160 units per percentage market share in the four weeks following policy implementation (95% confidence intervals (CI): −252,690 to −21,630). By 12 months this effect had diminished (−57,080; 95% CI −167,760 to 53,590). Implementation of supermarket checkout food policies was associated with an immediate reduction in purchases of sugary confectionery, chocolate and crisps that was not sustained at one year. Focus groups with parents and carers were conducted to explore awareness and views of supermarket checkouts and checkout policies, whether parents and carers support such policies, and what other interventions or policies parents and carers might welcome to reduce impulse purchases and ‘pester power’.