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Sales promotions and food consumption


C Hawkes, Le Pouget, 43380 Lavoute-Chilhac, France. E-mail:, Phone: +33-4-6397-0420.


Sales promotions are widely used to market food to adults, children, and youth. Yet, in contrast to advertising, practically no attention has been paid to their impacts on dietary behaviors, or to how they may be used more effectively to promote healthy eating. This review explores the available literature on the subject. The objective is to identify if and what literature exists, examine the nature of this literature, and analyze what can be learned from it about the effects of sales promotions on food consumption. The review finds that while sales promotions lead to significant sales increases over the short-term, this does not necessarily lead to changes in food-consumption patterns. Nevertheless, there is evidence from econometric modeling studies indicating that sales promotions can influence consumption patterns by influencing the purchasing choices of consumers and encouraging them to eat more. These effects depend on the characteristics of the food product, sales promotion, and consumer. The complexity of the effects means that sales promotions aiming to encourage consumption of nutritious foods need to be carefully designed. These conclusions are based on studies that use mainly sales data as a proxy for dietary intake. The nutrition (and economics) research communities should add to this existing body of research to provide evidence on the impact of sales promotions on dietary intake and related behaviors. This would help support the development of a sales promotion environment conducive to healthy eating.