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Increasing prevalence of overweight and obese people in England has led policymakers to consider regulating the use of price promotions on foods high in fat, sugar and salt content. In January 2019, the government opened a consultation programme for a policy proposal that significantly restricts the use of price promotions that can induce consumers to buy higher volumes of unhealthy foods and beverages. These proposed policies are the first of their kind in public health and are believed to reduce excess purchasing and, therefore, overconsumption of unhealthy products. This study summarises evidence relating price promotions to the purchasing of food and drink for home consumption and places it in the context of the proposed policy.
Non-systematic review of quantitative analyses of price promotions in food and drink published in peer-reviewed journals and sighted by PubMed, ScienceDirect & EBSCOhost between 1980 and January 2018.
While the impact of price promotions on sales has been of interest to marketing academics for a long time with modelling studies showing that its use has increased food and drink sales by 12–43 %, it is only now being picked up in the public health sphere. However, existing evidence does not consider the effects of removing or restricting the use of price promotions across the food sector. In this commentary, we discuss existing evidence, how it deals with the complexity of shoppers’ behaviour in reacting to price promotions on foods and, importantly, what can be learned from it in this policy context.
The current evidence base supports the notion that price promotions increase purchasing of unhealthy food, and while the proposed restriction policy is yet to be evaluated for consumption and health effects, there is arguably sufficient evidence to proceed. This evidence is not restricted to volume-based promotions. Close monitoring and proper evaluation should follow to provide empirical evidence of its intended and unintended effects.
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