retail grocery store marketing strategies and obesity: an integrative review

Context In-store food marketing can influence food-purchasing behaviors and warrants increased attention given the dramatic rise in obesity. Descriptive and experimental studies of key marketing components have been conducted by consumer scientists, marketing researchers, and public health experts. This review synthesizes research and publications from industry and academic sources and provides direction for developing and evaluating promising interventions.

Evidence acquisition Literature sources for the review were English-language articles published from 1995 to 2010, identified from multidisciplinary search indexes, backward searches of cited articles, review articles, industry reports, and online sources. Only articles that focused on physical grocery stores and food products were included. Data collection occurred in 2010 and 2011.

Evidence synthesis Articles were classified in the categories of product, price, placement, and promotion and divided into controlled laboratory experiments, observation, and field experiments; 125 primary peer-reviewed articles met the inclusion criteria. Narrative synthesis methods were used. Key findings were synthesized by category of focus and study design. Evidence synthesis was completed in 2011.

Conclusions Findings suggest several strategies for in-store marketing to promote healthful eating by increasing availability, affordability, prominence, and promotion of healthful foods and/or restricting or de-marketing unhealthy foods. Key results of research in controlled laboratory studies should be adapted and tested in real-world in-store settings. Industry methods for assessing consumer behavior, such as electronic sales data and individually linked sales information from loyalty card holders, can help public health researchers increase the scientific rigor of field studies.

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