Supermarkets attract 63% of all food spending in Australia. Supermarkets stock and sell healthy food options as well as energy-dense, nutrient poor foods and drinks. This study aimed to compare the content of catalogues from four Australian supermarket chains with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGTHE).
The contents of the weekly national catalogues produced by four major Australian supermarket retailers (combined share of all supermarket grocery spending = 92.3%) was audited from June-September 2013 (11 weeks). Catalogues were sourced from store websites. The percentage of all advertised food products in the following categories was calculated based on the AGTHE: 1) The five core food groups: “Eat a wide variety daily” (Fruit/Vegetables/Grains/Meat and alternatives/Milk products and alternatives); 2) Discretionary foods: to be only eaten “sometimes and in small amounts” (including ice-cream, soft drinks, confectionery, pies, pastries, fats, oils). Food not able to be easily classified in one of these categories (i.e. products with ingredients from multiple categories) were included in a third group labelled “other”.
Of all foods advertised in the catalogues, 26.4% were from the five core food groups, while 33.4% were discretionary foods. The remaining 40.1% of foods did not fall into the two defined categories. The percentage of advertised foods recommended to be eaten daily varied from 20.5% to 32.0% across the four chains, while the percentage of “sometimes foods” varied from 22.9% to 39.8%. Little variation was observed across the 11 weeks of the study, particularly for the two dominant chains.
ConclusionAustralian supermarket catalogues contain a high percentage of advertisements for discretionary foods and therefore appear to encourage unhealthy eating and obesity. Promoting healthier foods in supermarket catalogues could be a novel intervention strategy to improve population eating behaviours.