The influence of supermarket deals on the shopping habits of Scottish households is to come under the spotlight.
Researchers at Scotland’s Rural College, in partnership with the University of Aberdeen and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, have been awarded more than £93,000 to look at the impact of restricting the marketing of in-store promotions for foods high in fat, sugar and/or salt.
This includes the use of ‘red tags’ to highlight buy one, get one free (BOGOF) and other offers.
Led by Dr Cesar Revoredo-Giha, senior economist at SRUC, researchers will use mathematical modelling to determine whether the removal of red tags highlighting special offers on foods such as crisps, biscuits and sugary drinks, will lead shoppers towards other products in the same category or healthier options like fruit and vegetables.
The research is being funded by the Scottish Government, with the analysis informing future policy aimed at improving people’s health by tackling their diet and weight.
The researchers will use data provided by Kantar – a company dealing in customer knowledge and insights based on continuous consumer panels – to construct a mathematical model containing information about customers’ purchases, including the type, quantity and price of the product and whether it was bought as part of a promotion.
They will also carry out choice experiments with a representative sample of 1,500 people, using three products to assess the effect of restricting the promotion of price discounts on consumers’ choices and willingness to pay.
Finally, they will try to analyse whether a customer who reduces the amount they spend on a particular product high in fat, sugar or salt, reallocates this extra money to similar products or to healthier options.
Dr Revoredo-Giha said: “The consumer is the king of the food supply chain. The retailer can influence them but at the end of the day, it’s consumers who decide what they buy or don’t buy. Knowing what determines consumers’ decisions is precious information for the supply chain and that’s part of our work.
“It will help us understand better the role of marketing on consumers. In this case, it’s about restricting the advertising of promotions for those products high in fat, sugar and salt. However, you can use similar marketing to promote other products that are beneficial, like fruit and vegetables. That’s important because it has a key role to play in policy.
“On the academic side, it’s of interest to see what factors influence the demand for food products as it helps us improve our models and their predictions.”
The six-month project Economic modelling: reducing health harms of foods high in fat, sugar or salt will run until February.
Visit research at SRUC to find out more.