Superlist Perliminary Study

Jun 12, 2019

Only 1 in 5 Supermarket Promotions are Healthy

Supermarkets play a decisive role in what people buy and consume. Only 1 in 5 supermarket promotions are aimed at promoting products from the ‘Wheel of Five’. The average supermarket brochure therefore entices people to buy products that the Dutch Nutrition Centre (Voedingscentrum) considers to be less healthy or unhealthy. The impression of the extent to which supermarkets take responsibility for making the healthy choice the easiest is highly variable. There are big differences between, but also within, supermarkets. Questionmark's research into the range and promotions of Dutch supermarkets shows, among other things:

  • None of the supermarkets seem to steer towards healthy choices through promotions. The ratio between healthy and unhealthy products in their weekly offers is at odds with the recommended ratio in the guidelines from the ‘Wheel of Five’ of the Dutch Nutrition Centre.
  • When it comes to sustainability, however, there are supermarkets that use their promotional policies to distinguish themselves, for example by encouraging the consumption of vegetable proteins. At some supermarkets, the vegetarian choice is considerably easier than at others.

This confirms the need for a supermarket benchmark for the degree to which they make ‘healthy and sustainable’ the easy choice. Such a benchmark could give shape to the idea of a 'comparison of supermarkets' as introduced by Minister Schouten of LNV (Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality) and State Secretary Blokhuis of VWS (Public Health, Welfare and Sport) in their joint parliamentary letter (2018).

Prevention Agreement

This preliminary study thus shows that supermarkets mainly promote unhealthy choices. The study on healthy choices fits in seamlessly with the objectives of the Dutch Prevention Agreement, and was therefore presented to the Dutch House of Representatives and the State Secretary of VWS in June 2019. Questionmark and the Food Transition Coalition asked the Ministry of VWS and the Dutch House of Representatives, when taking a decision on the Dutch Prevention Agreement, to make funds available for the upscaling and a periodic repetition of the study.

Handing Over the Investigation Report

The investigation report was presented to State Secretary Blokhuis of VWS and he promised to include the results of the study in the debate in the Dutch House of Representatives on the Dutch Prevention Agreement. According to Blokhuis, "It is important for our health that the healthy choice is easy. Supermarkets play an important role in this with their range and promotions. The supermarkets have already done a lot in recent years, but there is really room for improvement. This study also shows that. I encourage these kinds of initiatives so that it becomes increasingly attractive to choose healthy food in the supermarket."


Whereas, due to limited resources, it has now been decided to refrain from mentioning specific names of supermarket formulas, this can be done if the study is scaled up. This can reward the good examples and encourage the ones lagging behind to step up their efforts.

Download the Superlist preliminary study

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