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BACKGROUND: Dietary changes are necessary to improve population health and meet environmental sustainability targets. Here we analyse the impact of promotional activities implemented in UK supermarkets on purchases of healthier and more sustainable foods. METHODS: Three natural experiments examined the impact of promotional activities on sales of a) no-added-sugar (NAS) plant-based milk (in 199 stores), b) products promoted during 'Veganuary' (in 96 stores), and c) seasonal fruit (in 100 non-randomised intervention and 100 matched control stores). Data were provided on store-level product sales, in units sold and monetary value (£), aggregated weekly. Predominant socioeconomic position (SEP) of the store population was provided by the retailer. Analyses used interrupted time series and multivariable hierarchical mixed-effects models. RESULTS: Sales of both promoted and total NAS plant-based milks increased significantly during the promotional period (Promoted:+126 units, 95%CI: 105-148; Overall:+307 units, 95%CI: 264-349). The increase was greater in stores with predominately low SEP shoppers. During Veganuary, sales increased significantly for plant-based foods on promotion (+60 units, 95%CI: 37-84), but not for sales of plant-based foods overall (dairy alternatives: -1131 units, 95%CI: -5821-3559; meat alternatives: 1403 units, 95%CI: -749-3554). There was no evidence of a change in weekly sales of promoted seasonal fruit products (assessed via ratio change in units sold: 0.01, 95%CI: 0.00-0.02), and overall fruit category sales slightly decreased in intervention stores relative to control (ratio change in units sold: -0.01, 95%CI: -0.01-0.00). CONCLUSION: During promotional campaigns there was evidence that sales of plant-based products increased, but not seasonal fruits. There was no evidence for any sustained change beyond the intervention period.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Public Health

Publication Date





Food, Health, Promotions, Supermarket, Sustainability, UK, United Kingdom, Humans, Supermarkets, Commerce, Health Promotion, Fruit, Diet, Healthy, Milk