Beverages, especially sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), have been increasingly subject to policies aimed at reducing their consumption as part of measures to tackle obesity. However, precision targeting of policies is difficult as information on what types of consumers they might affect, and to what degree, is missing. We fill this gap by creating a typology of beverage consumers in Great Britain (GB) based on observed beverage purchasing behaviour to determine what distinct types of beverage consumers exist, and what their socio-demographic (household) characteristics, dietary behaviours, and weight status are.
We used cross-sectional latent class analysis to characterise patterns of beverage purchases. We used data from the 2016 GB Kantar Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) panel, a large representative household purchase panel of food and beverages brought home, and restricted our analyses to consumers who purchase beverages regularly (i.e., >52 l per household member annually) (n = 8,675). Six categories of beverages were used to classify households into latent classes: SSBs; diet beverages; fruit juices and milk-based beverages; beer and cider; wine; and bottled water. Multinomial logistic regression and linear regression were used to relate class membership to household characteristics, self-reported weight status, and other dietary behaviours, derived from GB Kantar FMCG. Seven latent classes were identified, characterised primarily by higher purchases of 1 or 2 categories of beverages: 'SSB' (18% of the sample; median SSB volume = 49.4 l/household member/year; median diet beverage volume = 38.0 l), 'Diet' (16%; median diet beverage volume = 94.4 l), 'Fruit & Milk' (6%; median fruit juice/milk-based beverage volume = 30.0 l), 'Beer & Cider' (7%; median beer and cider volume = 36.3 l; median diet beverage volume = 55.6 l), 'Wine' (18%; median wine volume = 25.5 l; median diet beverage volume = 34.3 l), 'Water' (4%; median water volume = 46.9 l), and 'Diverse' (30%; diversity of purchases, including median SSB volume = 22.4 l). Income was positively associated with being classified in the Diverse class, whereas low social grade was more likely for households in the classes SSB, Diet, and Beer & Cider. Obesity (BMI > 30 kg/m2) was more prevalent in the class Diet (41.2%, 95% CI 37.7%-44.7%) despite households obtaining little energy from beverages in that class (17.9 kcal/household member/day, 95% CI 16.2-19.7). Overweight/obesity (BMI > 25 kg/m2) was above average in the class SSB (66.8%, 95% CI 63.7%-69.9%). When looking at all groceries, households from the class SSB had higher total energy purchases (1,943.6 kcal/household member/day, 95% CI 1,901.7-1,985.6), a smaller proportion of energy from fruits and vegetables (6.0%, 95% CI 5.8%-6.3%), and a greater proportion of energy from less healthy food and beverages (54.6%, 95% CI 54.0%-55.1%) than other classes. A greater proportion of energy from sweet snacks was observed for households in the classes SSB (18.5%, 95% CI 18.1%-19.0%) and Diet (18.8%, 95% CI 18.3%-19.3%). The main limitation of our analyses, in common with other studies, is that our data do not include information on food and beverage purchases that are consumed outside the home.
Amongst households that regularly purchase beverages, those that mainly purchased high volumes of SSBs or diet beverages were at greater risk of obesity and tended to purchase less healthy foods, including a high proportion of energy from sweet snacks. These households might additionally benefit from policies targeting unhealthy foods, such as sweet snacks, as a way of reducing excess energy intake.