Supermarkets influence to a large extent what their customers buy. This gives them the opportunity to make food habits healthier and more sustainable. With the Superlist research programme, Questionmark Foundation helps supermarkets to seize this opportunity. In 2022 Questionmark will conduct a Superlist study in Sweden.
We will assess the contribution of the four largest supermarket chains, Coop, Hemköp, ICA and Willys, to a sustainable and healthy food system.
Data on assortment and promotions will be collected during a 6-week period, starting on August 15. During this period, all webshops will be visited in four data collection cycles. The assessment will lead to a short report with the main findings. The report will be published in two parts, one on health, one on sustainability. See text below for a short introduction to both topics.
The full research methodology can be downloaded here.
Of all food types, meat has a relatively high environmental impact. Promotions can be regarded as an incentive to buy more than one had intended to buy. By promoting products, supermarkets stimulate purchasing and consumption of that product category. We will analyse the extent to which Swedish supermarkets promote meat products, and thereby stimulate the consumption of these products. We will pay special attention to promotions of the multibuy type.
Additionally, we will measure the extent to which the meat promotions of each supermarket are for products with a 'red light' in the Swedish WWF meat guide. To analyse this we will assess the origin of meat products and relevant certifications and measure the number of meat products currently in promotion that fall under these criteria.
Around 50% of adults in Sweden are overweight or obese. Obesity is among the main five risk factors in Sweden for healthy years of life being lost. Among the main drivers of this problem are unhealthy eating habits with high intakes of saturated fat, salt and sugar.
Recent research in the UK shows that food promotions strongly encourage the consumption of unhealthy products (defined as products high in fat, salt or sugar, 'HFSS' for short). As a consequence, the UK Government has issued legislation aimed at limiting the promotion of unhealthy food products from October 2022 onwards (later postponed to October 2023). The legislation focuses on promotions of the type 'buy 1 get 1 free' or '5 for only £1,-'. Research has shown that it is this 'multibuy' type of promotion that leads to the biggest increase in consumption.
These developments provide an interesting opportunity to look at the Swedish food landscape through the lens of British health research and legislation. In this study we assess the extent to which Swedish supermarkets contribute to the obesogenic food environment through their promotions. The research will help to answer the question: which part of unhealthy food promotions by Swedish supermarkets would already be illegal by UK standards?