Estimating the effect of moving meat-free products to the meat aisle on sales of meat and meat-free products: A non-randomised controlled intervention study in a large UK supermarket chain
Piernas C., Cook B., Stevens R., Stewart C., Hollowell J., Scarborough P., Jebb SA.
Background: Reducing meat consumption could bring health and environmental benefits, but there is little research to date on effective interventions to achieve this. A non-randomised controlled intervention study was used to evaluate whether prominent positioning of meat-free products in the meat aisle was associated with a change in weekly mean sales of meat and meat-free products. Methods and findings Weekly sales data were obtained from 108 stores: 20 intervention stores that moved a selection of 26 meat-free products into a newly created meat-free bay within the meat aisle and 88 matched control stores. The primary outcome analysis used a hierarchical negative binomial model to compare changes in weekly sales (units) of meat products sold in intervention versus control stores during the main intervention period (Phase I: February 2019 to April 2019). Interrupted time series analysis was also used to evaluate the effects of the Phase I intervention. Moreover, 8 of the 20 stores enhanced the intervention from August 2019 onwards (Phase II intervention) by adding a second bay of meat-free products into the meat aisle, which was evaluated following the same analytical methods. During the Phase I intervention, sales of meat products (units/store/week) decreased in intervention (approximately -6%) and control stores (-5%) without significant differences (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 1.01 [95% CI 0.95-1.07]. Sales of meat-free products increased significantly more in the intervention (+31%) compared to the control stores (+6%; IRR 1.43 [95% CI 1.30-1.57]), mostly due to increased sales of meat-free burgers, mince, and sausages. Consistent results were observed in interrupted time series analyses where the effect of the Phase II intervention was significant in intervention versus control stores. Conclusions Prominent positioning of meat-free products into the meat aisle in a supermarket was not effective in reducing sales of meat products, but successfully increased sales of meat-free alternatives in the longer term.