Variation in supermarket exposure to energy-dense snack foods by socio-economic position

Public Health Nutr. 2013 Jul;16(7):1178-85. doi: 10.1017/S1368980012002649. Epub 2012 May 22.


Objective: The present study aimed to examine the availability of energy-dense,nutrient-poor snack foods (and fruits and vegetables) in supermarkets located insocio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Design: Cross-sectional supermarket audit.

Setting: Melbourne, Australia. Measures included product shelf space and number of varieties for soft drinks, crisps, chocolate, confectionery and fruits and vegetables, as well as store size.

Subjects: Thirty-five supermarkets (response 83 %) from neighbourhoods in the lowest and highest quintile of socio-economic disadvantage.

Results: Shelf space allocated to soft drinks (23?6m v. 17?7m, P50?006), crisps (16?5m v. 13?0m, P50?016), chocolate (12?2m v. 10?1m, P50?022) and confectionery (6?7m v. 5?1m, P50?003) was greater in stores from socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. After adjustment for store size (stores in disadvantaged areas being larger), shelf space for confectionery (6?3m v. 5?6m, P50?024) and combined shelf space for all energy-dense foods and drinks (55?0m v. 48?9m, P50?017) remained greater in stores from socio-economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The ratio of shelf space allocated to fruits and vegetables to that for energy-dense snack foods also varied by socio-economic disadvantage after adjustment for store size (most disadvantaged v. least disadvantaged: 1?7 v. 2?1, P50?025). Varieties of fruits and vegetables and chocolate bars were more numerous in less disadvantaged areas (P,0?05).

Conclusions: Exposure to energy-dense snack foods and soft drinks in supermarketswas greater in socio-economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Thismay impact purchasing, consumption and cultural norms related to eatingbehaviours and may therefore work against elimination of the known socioeconomicgradient in obesity levels. Reform of supermarket stocking practicesmay represent an effective means of obesity prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Carbonated Beverages / economics
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Energy Intake*
  • Food / statistics & numerical data
  • Food Supply / economics
  • Fruit / economics
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Snacks*
  • Social Environment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Vegetables / economics