Where people shop is not associated with the nutrient quality of packaged foods for any racial-ethnic group in the United States.Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Apr; 103(4):1125-34.AJ
In the literature, it has been suggested that there are race-ethnic disparities in what Americans eat. In addition, some studies have shown that residents of African American and low-income neighborhoods have less access to grocery stores and supermarkets, which tend to stock healthier foods. However, it is unclear whether differences in food shopping patterns contribute to the poorer nutrient profile of food purchases made by racial-ethnic minorities.
We examined whether the mix of food stores where people shop (i.e., food-shopping patterns) was associated with the nutrient profile of packaged food purchases (PFPs) and the types of foods and beverages purchased, and we determined whether these associations differ across racial-ethnic groups.
We used PFPs by US households (Nielsen National Consumer Panel) from 2007 to 2012 and implemented a cluster analysis to categorize households according to their food-shopping patterns. Longitudinal random-effects linear regression models were used to examine the association between food shopping patterns and the nutrient qualities and types of packaged foods and beverages purchased by race-ethnicity in US households.
Shopping primarily at grocery chains was not associated with a better nutrient profile of household PFPs or the food and beverages that households purchased than was shopping primarily at mass merchandisers (value-oriented stores that sell merchandise lines in multiple departments) or at a combination of large and small stores. These results were consistent across racial-ethnic groups. Regardless of where households shopped, non-Hispanic African American households purchased foods with higher energy, total sugar, and sodium densities than did non-Hispanic white and Hispanic households.
Policy initiatives that focus on increasing physical access to stores or helping stores sell healthier products to encourage healthier purchases may be ineffective because other factors may be more important determinants of food and beverage purchases than where people shop or what is available in the store.