Reducing calorie sales from supermarkets - "silent" reformulation of retailer-brand food products

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Food product reformulation is seen as one among several tools to promote healthier eating. Reformulating the recipe for a processed food, e.g. reducing the fat, sugar or salt content of the foods, or increasing the content of whole-grains, can help the consumers to pursue a healthier life style. In this study, we evaluate the effects on calorie sales of a ‘silent’ reformulation strategy, where a retail chain’s private-label brands are reformulated to a lower energy density without making specific claims on the product.
Using an ecological study design, we analyse 52 weeks’ sales data – enriched with data on products’ energy density - from a Danish retail chain. Sales of eight product categories were studied. Within each of these categories, specific products had been reformulated during the 52 weeks data period. Using econometric methods, we decompose the changes in calorie turnover and sales value into direct and indirect effects of product reformulation.
For all considered products, the direct effect of product reformulation was a reduction in the sale of calories from the respective product categories - between 0.5 and 8.2%. In several cases, the reformulation led to indirect substitution effects that were counterproductive with regard to reducing calorie turnover. However, except in two insignificant cases, these indirect substitution effects were dominated by the direct effect of the reformulation, leading to net reductions in calorie sales between −3.1 and 7.5%. For all considered product reformulations, the reformulation had either positive, zero or very moderate negative effects on the sales value of the product category to which the reformulated product belonged.
Based on these findings, ‘silent’ reformulation of retailer’s private brands towards lower energy density seems to contribute to lowering the calorie intake in the population (although to a moderate extent) with moderate losses in retailer’s sales revenues.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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