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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

New study aims to boost healthy products in convenience stores

Published: 5 March 2024
Less healthy foods

A new study which aims to find workable solutions to boost the sales of healthy products in convenience stores across England has been launched.

The study will also examine how the UK Government’s new law to reduce impulse buying of products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) is affecting what people who use convenience stores buy and eat.

The study is being led by Professor Christina Vogel and researchers at the University of Southampton, together with City, University of London and the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The project is funded by an award of £1.37 million over the next two and a half years by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and has the title ‘ E valuating the impact of the placement regulations impact on the CON venience store sector and co-creating solutions for a healthier system’ study, or ECON for short.

Professor Vogel, now Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, said: “These less healthy foods have a long shelf life and make commercial sense. But given that obesity and poor diet constitute two of the greatest threats to population health, we hope to help all convenience store owners, manufacturers and suppliers find ways to offer healthier options to their customers without affecting their profits.”

The Government introduced the Food (Promotion and Placement) Regulations 2021 in England in October 2022 to stop retail businesses promoting HFSS products at checkouts, aisle ends and store entrances.

The rules apply to some convenience stores, but not others. Smaller convenience stores (less than 2000 square feet), which are often visited by young people, older adults and low-income families, do not need to follow these guidelines.

As a result, these groups of people may not see the same health benefits from this law as those who shop in supermarkets. Larger convenience store owners are also worried they will find it hard to stick to the new rules or that it might reduce sales and damage their businesses.

Professor Mary Barker of the University of Southampton noted: “Our research team includes a member of the public and a convenience store owner who, along with other members of the public, will keep our research relevant for stores and citizens.”

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