Background: Supermarkets play a major role in influencing the food purchasing behaviours of most households. Snack food exposures within these stores may contribute to higher levels of consumption and ultimately to increasing levels of obesity, particularly within socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. We aimed to examine the availability of snack food displays at checkouts, end-of-aisle displays and island displays in major supermarket chains in the least and most socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Melbourne.
Methods: Within-store audits of 35 Melbourne supermarkets. Supermarkets were sampled from the least and most socioeconomically disadvantaged suburbs within 30 km of the Melbourne CBD. We measured the availability of crisps, chocolate, confectionery, and soft drinks (diet and regular) at the checkouts, in end-of-aisle displays, and in island bin displays.
Results: Snack food displays were most prominent at checkouts with only five stores not having snack foods at 100% of their checkouts. Snack foods were also present at a number of end-of-aisle displays (at both the front (median 38%) and back (median 33%) of store), and in island bin displays (median number of island displays: 7; median total circumference of island displays: 19.4 metres). Chocolate items were the most common snack food item on display. There was no difference in the availability of these snack food displays by neighbourhood disadvantage.
Conclusions: As a result of the high availability of snack food displays, exposure to snack foods is almost unavoidable in Melbourne supermarkets, regardless of levels of neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage. Results of this study could promote awareness of the prominence of unhealthy food items in chain-brand supermarkets outlets.