Although school lunches and fast-food menus have been among the highest-profile topics in the obesity debate, supermarkets are also coming into sharper focus. The World Obesity Federation estimates that just over 8% of the nation’s five- to 18-year-olds are obese. By 2025 they predict more than one in 10 kids will be classified as obese.
There is no doubt that today we are operating in a society where we are “constantly bombarded” with messages enticing us to consume processed and fast food. These foods taste yummy due to their high salt,fat and sugar content and come in large portions, encouraging us to over-eat. Supermarkets and fast food outlets have become incredibly convenient for the mass population in the context of modern lifestyles where time is an increasingly precious resource.
Data published last year in the journal Public Health Nutrition, has shown that, compared to those who don’t shop at these outlets, supermarket shoppers “consume significantly more joules and a greater share of their joules comes from processed foods”. Also, in developing countries supermarkets tend to specialise in processed foods first ( a sale tactic!), adding fresh foods only at a later stage of market development.
The Urban Forum study, which surveyed geographical access to supermarkets and what products they offer in different areas in the Western Cape, found that supermarkets in low income areas tend to stock a more limited range of products and in particular “they carry less fresh produce”.
Supermarkets tend to have a wider variety of,
- Processed and highly processed foods
often in larger packaging sizes and combined with special promotional campaigns, a marketing strategy, which can tempt us into buying more than we need – and often these are products with low nutritional value.
It’s important to note, large supermarkets may represent a food system that focuses on quantity ahead of quality and therefore may be an important and novel environmental indicator of a pattern of behaviour that encourages obesity.