Modernization of African food retailing and (un)healthy food consumption
This article (PDF) in the Sustainability journal examins relationships between consumers’ socioeconomic status, use of different modern and traditional retailers, and dietary patterns in urban Zambia. Food environments in Africa are changing rapidly, with modern retailers gaining in importance. Changing food environments can influence consumers’ food choices and dietary patterns. Recent research has suggested that the growth of supermarkets leads to more consumption of processed foods, less healthy diets, and rising obesity. However, relatively little is known about what type of consumers actually use modern supermarkets and to what extent. Moreover, focusing only on supermarkets may be misleading, as most consumers obtain their food from various modern and traditional retailers. Results of this study show that two-thirds of the households use modern and traditional retailers simultaneously, but that richer households are more likely than poorer ones to use supermarkets and hypermarkets. Use of modern retailers is positively associated with higher consumption of ultra-processed foods, after also controlling for income and other socioeconomic factors. However, the use of traditional stores and kiosks is also positively associated with the consumption of ultra-processed foods, suggesting that modern retailers are not the only drivers of dietary transitions. So a focus on regulating modern retailers alone would be insufficient to promote healthy eating. Policy options to consider are regulations related to the advertisement and promotion of healthy and unhealthy foods and their strategic placement within shops. Beyond advertisement, awareness campaigns, and nudges, taxes and subsidies could also be options to promote healthy diets.