“Packaged Food Purchases at Non-Grocery Stores are Up but Nutritional Quality is Down”
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina revealed that American consumers are making more prepackaged food purchases (PFPs) at convenience stores, warehouse clubs and mass merchandisers. They have determined the offerings available from these kinds of retailers contain higher calories, saturated fat, sugar and sodium compared to grocery stores. Researchers utilized a method called Nielsen Homescan, which records all packaged foods and beverages purchased and store source from a representative sample of U.S. households. The data, pulled from the U.S. Homescan Consumer Panel from 2000-2012 revealed that 78% of store-based food purchases were from PFP’s. Top purchases included grain-based desserts, regular soda, savory snacks and fruit drinks.
This study is important to community dietitians because it provides new information about purchasing habits. Although it’s commonly understood that food deserts, housing mainly convenience stores, increase PFPs with decreased nutrient quality, the present study reveals that mass merchandisers and warehouse clubs also contribute to a disproportionate amount of low nutrition quality food selection. This finding creates an opportunity for dietitians to work with these retailers in promoting healthier selections and educating consumers on healthier options and tips when shopping, or simple recipes.