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Real-life experiments in supermarkets to encourage healthy dietary-related behaviours: opportunities, challenges and lessons learned

Vogel, C. A. ORCID: 0000-0002-3897-3786, Dijkstra, C., Huitink, M. , Dhuria, P., Poelman, M. P., Mackenbach, J. D., Crozier, S., Seidell, J., Baird, J. & Ball, K. (2023). Real-life experiments in supermarkets to encourage healthy dietary-related behaviours: opportunities, challenges and lessons learned. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 20(1), article number 73. doi: 10.1186/s12966-023-01448-8


Supermarkets are the primary source of food for many people yet their full potential as a setting to encourage healthy dietary-related behaviours remains underutilised. Sharing the experiences from research groups who have worked with supermarket chains to evaluate strategies that promote healthy eating could improve the efficiency of building such relationships and enhance the design quality of future research studies.

A collective case study approach was used to synthesise experiences of engaging and sustaining research collaborations with national supermarket chains to test the effectiveness of health-focused in-store interventions. The collective narrative covers studies conducted in three high-income countries: Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

We have distilled our experiences and lessons learned into six recommendations for conducting high quality public health research with commercial supermarket chains. These include: (i) using personal contacts, knowledge of supermarket activities and engaging executive management to establish a partnership and allowing time to build trust; (ii) using scientifically robust study designs with appropriate sample size calculations; (iii) formalising data exchange arrangements and allocating adequate resource for data extraction and re-categorisation; (iv) assessing effects at individual/households level where possible; (v) designing a mixed-methods process evaluation to measure intervention fidelity, dose and unintended consequences; and (vi) ensuring scientific independence through formal contract agreements.

Our collective experiences of working in non-financial partnerships with national supermarket chains could be useful for other research groups looking to develop and implement supermarket studies in an efficient manner. Further evidence from real-life supermarket interventions is necessary to identify sustainable strategies that can improve population diet and maintain necessary commercial outcomes.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2023. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Supermarkets, Public-private partnerships, Diet, Food environments
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
SWORD Depositor:
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