Dietary Implications of Supermarket Development: A Global Perspective


  • Most of the research for this article was conducted while the author was Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC. The systematic review of the literature on the link between retailing and diet was conducted as part of a larger review commissioned by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). The author would like to thank Marie Ruel for her considerable input into that review and for her general encouragement with preparing the article.


Five decisions by supermarket operators have important dietary implications: the location of their outlets; the foods they sell; the prices they charge; the promotional strategies they use; and the nutrition-related activities they implement. These decisions influence food accessibility, availability, prices and desirability, which in turn influence the decisions consumers make about food. Based on a comprehensive literature review, this article finds that the dietary implications are both positive – supermarkets can make a more diverse diet available and accessible to more people – and negative – supermarkets can reduce the ability of marginalised populations to purchase a high-quality diet, and encourage the consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor highly-processed foods. Overall, the most universally applicable dietary implication is that supermarkets encourage consumers to eat more, whatever the food.