Excess calorie consumption and poor diet are major contributors to the obesity epidemic. Food retailers, in particular at supermarkets, are key shapers of the food environment which influences consumers’ diets. This study seeks to understand the decision-making processes of supermarket retailers—including motivators for and barriers to promoting more healthy products—and to catalogue elements of the complex relationships between customers, suppliers, and, supermarket retailers.
We recruited 20 supermarket retailers from a convenience sample of full service supermarkets and national supermarket chain headquarters serving low- and high-income consumers in urban and non-urban areas of New York. Individuals responsible for making in-store decisions about retail practices engaged in online surveys and semi-structured interviews. We employed thematic analysis to analyze the transcripts.
Supermarket retailers, mostly representing independent stores, perceived customer demand and suppliers’ product availability and deals as key factors influencing their in-store practices around product selection, placement, pricing, and promotion. Unexpectedly, retailers expressed a high level of autonomy when making decisions about food retail strategies. Overall, retailers described a willingness to engage in healthy food retail and a desire for greater support from healthy food retail initiatives.
Understanding retailers’ in-store decision making will allow development of targeted healthy food retail policy approaches and interventions, and provide important insights into how to improve the food environment.