Australia's Food Environment Dashboard

Supermarkets are the main source of food for most Australian households. The supermarket environment, including the amount of shelf-space allocated to different products, the promotion of foods in prominent in-store locations, and price discounting practices all have a major impact on what people choose to buy.

Indicator Result Assessment* What was measured? Source

Food composition

 

Average Health Star Rating of own-brand product portfolio**:

 

Woolworths
Coles
Aldi
IGA

3.2
3.0
2.8
2.6

Packaged food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)

State of the Food Supply Australia (2020)

Food labelling

 

Proportion of  own-brand products that display the Health Star Rating**:

 

Coles

Woolworths

Aldi

92%

89%

82%

Eligible packaged food and drinks available in Australian supermarkets (2018-19)

Shahid et al (2020)

IGA

0%

Price promotions

 

Proportion of unhealthy foods on price promotion vs proportion of healthy foods on price promotion each week ***

28.8%  vs  15.1%

Weekly online price data for food and drinks from major Australian supermarket chain over 1 year (2017-2018)

Riesenberg et al. (2019)

Average discount on unhealthy vs healthy foods ***

25.9%  vs  15.4%

Weekly online price data for food and beverages from major Australian supermarket chain over 1 year (2017-2018)

Riesenberg et al. (2019)

Proportion of price-promoted drinks that were for sugar-sweetened beverages in:

 

Coles

Woolworths

46%

49%

Beverages on price promotion from the online websites of  Coles and Woolworths over a 52 week period (2016-17)

Zorbas et al. (2019)

Proportion of price-promoted shelf space in-store devoted to unhealthy food or drinks***:

 

At checkouts
At end of aisle displays
In island bins around the store

88.3%
65.9%
42.0%

Placement of discretionary food and drinks at checkouts across a sample of all major supermarket chains (n=104) in Victoria (2019)

Grigsby-Duffy et al. (2020)

Checkouts and product placement

 

Proportion of checkouts where at least one type of unhealthy food or drink was present

90%

Placement of discretionary food and drinks at staff-assisted checkouts across a sample of all major supermarket chains (n=104) in Victoria (2019)

Schultz et al. (2020)

Proportion of display space devoted to unhealthy foods and drinks at checkouts

78%

Placement of discretionary food and beverages at staff-assisted checkouts across a sample of all major supermarket chains (n=104) in Victoria (2019)

Schultz et al. (2020)

Proportion of food and drink end-of-aisle displays where at least one type of unhealthy food or drink was present

80%

Placement of discretionary food and beverages at food and drink end-of-aisle displays across a sample of all major supermarket chains (n=104) in Victoria (2019)

Schultz et al. (2020)

Proportion of space devoted to unhealthy foods or drinks at end-of-aisles facing the front of store

34%

Placement of discretionary food and beverages at end-of-aisle displays facing the front of store across a sample of all major supermarket chains (n=104) in Victoria (2019)

Schultz et al. (2020)

Catalogues

 

Proportion of foods advertised in weekly catalogues that were unhealthy vs healthy

43.3%  vs  34.2%

Weekly catalogues produced by Australian supermarket chains (Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and IGA) (2015)

Cameron et al. (2015)

Shelf space

 

Proportion of shelf space allocated to unhealthy foods and drinks (compared with healthy items), between the most and least disadvantaged areas

9.7%
higher in the most disadvantaged areas

Shelf space of key healthy foods (fruit and vegetables) and unhealthy foods (chocolate, confectionery, chips, sweet biscuits, soft drinks and energy drinks) in a sample of all major supermarket chains (n=104) in Victoria (2019)

Schultz et al. (2020)

Policies and commitments

 

Average score for nutrition-related policies and commitments of major supermarket chains:

 

Woolworths

Coles

46 out of 100

40 out of 100

 

Assessment of comprehensiveness, specificity and transparency of nutrition-related policies and commitments of the four largest supermarket chains operating in Australia, using the INFORMAS BIA-Obesity tool (2018)

‘Inside Our Food Companies’ initiative

Sacks et al. (2020)

Aldi

IGA

11 out of 100

8 out of 100

* Green = ‘Promotes health’; Amber = ‘Needs further improvement to promote health’; Red = ‘Unhealthy’. Refer to Indicator Assessment Criteria at the bottom of the page.

** The Health Star Rating (HSR) labelling system, endorsed by the Australian Government in 2014, was designed to provide an overall signal about a food’s healthiness. Each product is given a rating from 0.5 to 5 stars, with more stars signalling a healthier product. Implementation of HSR on food products is currently voluntary for food manufacturers. The government recently announced that their target is for 70% of intended products to display the HSR by 2025. See full State of the Food Supply Australia 2020 report for other indicators including proportion of products that are discretionary foods and proportion of products that are ultra-processed foods.

*** The term ‘unhealthy foods’ refers to discretionary foods. The Australian Dietary Guidelines describes discretionary foods as foods and drinks not necessary to provide the nutrients the body needs, but that may add variety. Many discretionary foods are energy dense and high in saturated fats, added sugars and/or sodium. The recommendations are that discretionary foods can be consumed sometimes in small amounts by those who are physically active, but are not a necessary part of the diet.


Key Findings

  • Australian supermarkets demonstrate some commitment to addressing health and nutrition in corporate policies, but much stronger action is needed across the sector.
  • Australian supermarkets heavily promote unhealthy food and drinks:
    • It is almost impossible to pay for groceries in Australia without being exposed to unhealthy food and drinks. The most common foods found at checkouts are chocolate, gum and mints and unhealthy drinks (eg. soft drinks and energy drinks).
    • Weekly supermarket catalogues promote unhealthy food and drinks more often than healthy foods.
    • Unhealthy food and drinks are more common at prominent end-of-aisle displays facing the front of the store, compared to displays elsewhere in-store. The most common foods found at end-of-aisles are chocolate and confectionery, unhealthy drinks and chips.
    • Discretionary (unhealthy) food and drinks are price promoted almost twice as often as healthy foods. Discounts on discretionary foods are also larger than discounts on healthier foods.
    • Most supermarket chains (except ALDI) dedicate more promotional space to unhealthy than healthy products. Of all discounted food and drinks, there are 7.5 times more unhealthy than healthy items at checkouts, and two times more unhealthy than healthy items at end-of aisle displays. ALDI has no price promotions on unhealthy food or drinks at checkouts and almost none at end-of-aisle displays.
  • The shelf space allocated to food and drink categories influences consumer purchases: more shelf-space typically leads to more sales. Supermarkets located in more socioeconomically disadvantaged areas have more shelf space allocated to key unhealthy food and drinks compared with healthy items, than stores located in the most advantaged areas.

Key Recommendations

  • Supermarkets can contribute to improving Australian diets by:
    • Offering fewer discounts on unhealthy food and drinks and lowering the magnitude of discount on unhealthy items
    • Providing healthier checkouts that do not display chocolate, confectionery and soft drinks
    • Replacing unhealthy items with healthy food and drinks or non-food items at end-of-aisle displays
    • Increasing catalogue space devoted to healthier foods and drinks
    • Allocating less shelf-space to unhealthy items relative to healthy food and drinks
    • Continuing to improve the healthiness of their own-brand product ranges
  • Marketing of unhealthy food in supermarkets should be an area of government focus, and could be part of the agenda of the Australian Government’s Healthy Food Partnership.
  • Increasing transparency of supermarket commitments to healthier product formulation, as well as restricting marketing and price promotions of unhealthy and drinks should be a corporate social responsibility (CSR) priority.
  • Regular assessment of supermarket nutrition policies, as well as their in-store and on-line marketing practices is required to strengthen accountability and demonstrate change over time.

For more information

Websites

Video:   How healthy are our supermarkets?

Journal Articles

Reports

Indicator Assessment Criteria
Metric

Average Health Star Rating of product portfolio

≥ 3.5 stars

2.5 – 3.0 stars

≤ 2 stars

Proportion of unhealthy foods on price promotion versus proportion of healthy foods on price promotion

No discretionary food and drink price promotions

Proportion of healthy food on price promotion > proportion of discretionary food on price promotion

Proportion of discretionary food on price promotion > proportion of healthy food on price promotion

Average discount of price promotions on unhealthy versus healthy foods

No discretionary food and drink price promotions

Price promotions for healthy food > discretionary food

Price promotions for discretionary food > healthy food

Proportion of price-promoted drinks that were for sugar-sweetened beverages

<20%

20-40%

>40%

Proportion of price-promoted shelf space in-store devoted to unhealthy foods or drinks

<20%

20-40%

>40%

Proportion of checkouts/end-of-aisles where at least one type of unhealthy food or drink was present

<20%

20-40%

>40%

Proportion of display space devoted to unhealthy food and drinks at checkouts/end-of-aisles

<20%

20-40%

>40%

Proportion of foods advertised in catalogues that were unhealthy versus healthy foods (Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and IGA)

No discretionary food and drink advertisements

Advertisements for healthy food > discretionary food

Advertisements for discretionary food > healthy food

Proportion of shelf space allocated to unhealthy food and drinks, compared with healthy items, between the most and least disadvantaged areas

No difference between most and least disadvantaged

N/A

Difference between most and least disadvantaged

Proportion of products that display the Health Star Rating

≥80%

40–79%

<40%

Median score for nutrition-related policies and commitments

≥80

40–79

<40