Banning unhealthy snacks at supermarket checkouts works

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If supermarkets stop offering unhealthy snacks at checkouts, consumers buy fewer of them. Far fewer, in fact: a British experiment shows a 75 % decrease in sales.

 

Up to 75 % fewer impulse purchases

A large-scale investigation into the buying behaviour of British families has demonstrated that consumers actually buy far fewer unhealthy snacks when they are not tempted to do so at the checkouts, but have to go look for them in the store.

 

British investigators mined the sales data of over nine major supermarket chains (Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose) between 2013 and 2017. Six of these chains had decided not to put fatty or sugary snacks on display by the checkouts: implementing the new system led to an immediate 17 % drop in impulse purchases. That number remained almost the same (16 %) even a year after the disappearance of the candy at the checkouts.

 

A second investigation with 7500 British people focused specifically on customers on the go who bought snacks for on the road. The effect was even more spectacular there: in 2016 and 2017, those supermarkets that stopped selling unhealthy snacks at the checkout sold 76 % less candy, chocolate or crisps than competitors who continued the practice.

 

A weapon in the war against child obesity

The investigation supports the case of those pleading for a general ban on unhealthy snacks at checkouts. The British government is considering such a ban as a weapon in its struggle to half the amount of children dealing with obesity by 2030.

 

"This research supports what parents have been saying all along - check-out deals for sugary and fatty foods mean they end up buying products they do not need or want. That is why we will soon be consulting on restricting these types of offers," says a spokesperson for the British Department of Health and Social Care.