Research and results
Healthy Stores 2020 was co-designed with ALPA to restrict the merchandising of unhealthy (discretionary) products, while allowing for substitute merchandising of healthy (core) foods and drinks. The overarching aim was to reduce the volume of targeted unhealthy (discretionary) items purchased and hence the amount of free sugar (from total energy from all food and drinks) purchased.
The research was conducted with very remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Northern Territory and Northern Queensland. Of the 25 ALPA owned and/or managed stores in the Northern Territory and Northern Queensland, 20 store businesses agreed to participate and were allocated to the 12-week strategy (7-point Healthy Stores 2020 strategy) or to usual retail practice. Four strategy stores with retail competition implemented a modified 6-point strategy. A team helped with strategy set-up in each of the ten strategy stores. Store managers with their staff maintained the strategy thereafter.
Weekly sales data were used to assess strategy impact on free sugars (g) to energy (MJ) (our primary outcome) derived from all purchased food and drinks. Impact on gross profit and sales of targeted food and beverages was also assessed. Managers of strategy stores were interviewed to determine their views on customer response and impact on retail practice.
Healthy Stores 2020 positively impacted the healthiness of food and beverage purchasing while still providing the customer with choice and with no observed business risk to the retailer and with no substitution effect; customers did not switch to other less healthy food and drinks. Healthy Stores 2020 helped customers buy less sugary drinks and confectionery. An effect on sweet biscuits and table sugar purchases was not observed. The greatest impact observed in association with Healthy Stores 2020 overall was the reduction in targeted beverages, particularly soft drinks.
The volume of sugar purchased plummeted. In 12 weeks across 10 stores, 1.8 tonnes less free sugar was purchased through foods and drinks. That’s equivalent to the weight of a large car.