INSIDE OUR SUPERMARKETS 2020

Assessment of the healthiness of Australian supermarkets

Supermarkets are a key setting for addressing unhealthy diets in Australia. 

The supermarket in-store environment, including the amount of shelf-space allocated to different products, the promotion of foods in prominent in-store locations, and price discounting practices, can all influence what people choose to buy. 

 

Socioeconomic factors also influence the healthiness of our diets. People living with socioeconomic disadvantage experience higher rates of diet-related diseases, are less likely to consume diets consistent with recommendations, and are more likely to over-consume unhealthy food. Understanding if and how the supermarket environment contributes to socioeconomic disparities is an important public health priority. 

'Inside our Supermarkets 2020' presents the results of a study where we assessed the degree to which the in-store environment within major Australian supermarket chains (Coles, Woolworths, ALDI and independent stores) promotes healthy eating, and how this varies according to the level of socioeconomic disadvantage of the area in which the stores were located. 

Overall findings

Australian supermarkets demonstrated some commitment to addressing health and nutrition issues, but much stronger action is needed across the sector

Key findings

Australian supermarkets heavily promote unhealthy food and beverages in-store. They do this by allocating more shelf-space to unhealthy items compared with healthy items, as well as promoting and discounting these foods in prominent in-store locations (e.g. end-of-aisles and checkouts). 

 

In many stores, it is almost impossible to pay for groceries without being exposed to unhealthy food and beverages. 

 

For some indicators of in-store healthiness, supermarkets located in more socioeconomically disadvantaged areas were less healthy than those located in less disadvantaged areas.

Implications

In order to improve Australian diets, we need to set higher standards around the way supermarkets promote unhealthy food.

Supermarkets can contribute to improving Australian diets by:

 

  • Providing healthier checkouts that do not display chocolate, confectionery and soft drinks

  • Replacing unhealthy items with healthy food and beverages or non-food items at end-of-aisle displays

  • Allocating less shelf-space to unhealthy items relative to healthy food and beverages

  • Offering fewer discounts on unhealthy food and beverages and lowering the magnitude of discount on unhealthy items.