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Food and Nutrition

Working with Grocers to Support Healthy Eating

Supporting and promoting healthy eating within the food retail environment shows promise as a means to positively influence consumption of nutritious foods. Social and physical environments influence food choice. The efforts of many sectors, including food retail can help to create supportive environments to improve the nutritional health of Canadians. This report outlines trends influencing the food retail environment and consumer purchasing behaviour. It summarizes promising interventions from the literature and profiles experiences from Canadian programs to help us understand how the food retail environment could support healthy eating. The report also provides suggestions for program development, implementation, and evaluation.

Globalization of the food industry has led to an increasingly concentrated and consolidated food retail sector. Global supply chains have resulted in sweeping changes to food retail formats and food choice. Traditional grocery stores have evolved into increasingly large supercenters that provide one-stop shopping, including health services. At the same time, many consumers are seeking out smaller, alternative food outlets, such as farmers’ markets, in an effort to make a connection with local food production.

The literature review included studies primarily from the United States, but also included some Canadian and international initiatives. The literature review indicates that the most common evaluated interventions are point of purchase information programs; price reduction and coupons; and shelf space strategies. Findings on interventions that employed multiple strategies included partnerships between schools and grocers, or that involved small food retailing including in northern and remote regions, are presented in this report.

Twelve promising or successful Canadian initiatives aimed at promoting healthy eating through the retail sector are showcased in this report. These profiles highlight program details, insights, lessons learned, and advice to inform future programs and policy directions.