Deakin scorecard shows States vary widely in obesity prevention efforts

In 2019, the Institute’s Global Obesity Centre (GLOBE) led an Australian-first study monitoring supermarket price promotion of junk food and healthy eating options.

Over the course of a year, the study examined price promotions at one of Australia’s largest supermarket chains and found that when it came to healthy foods from the five core food groups, an average of 15% of products were put on special every week. This was compared to nearly 30% of less healthy, discretionary foods being price promoted over the same period. The average size of the discount was also much greater for less healthy food (26% off), than for foods from the five core food groups (15% off).

Lead author Associate Professor Adrian Cameron said that that price promotions were yet another element of our food environment driving consumers toward poor diets and obesity.

“Most people know in general what food is good for them, but the marketing of unhealthy food pushes hard against that knowledge and is one of the reasons poor diets and obesity remain so prevalent,” Associate Professor Cameron said.

“More than two-thirds of all the food we eat is bought from a supermarket, so we desperately need these stores to be encouraging healthy eating if we want to have an impact on obesity as a country.”

Policies to reduce the number and size of price discounts on junk food could improve the healthiness of food purchased from supermarkets. This is particularly important in Australia, where evidence shows we have one of the world’s biggest cultures of supermarket specials.

Another GLOBE study monitored price promotions on drinks at Australia’s two largest supermarkets, showing that discounts were far more common and far larger for sugary drinks compared to other beverage products.

The lead author of that study, Accredited Practising Dietitian Dr Christina Zorbas, said sugary drinks were the largest contributor to added sugars in Australians’ daily diets, and were therefore a key target to improve levels of overweight and obesity.

“Discounts on unhealthy food and drink warrant serious attention as part of a comprehensive strategy to promote healthy diets and reduce obesity,” she said.