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Industry Voices

Retailers should remove junk food from checkout aisles

In an age when people struggle with obesity and diabetes, promoting impulse purchases of candy and soda in the checkout aisle is irresponsible and unethical.

No one resolves on New Year’s to eat more candy, drink more soda, or gain more weight. It’s the opposite. Many shoppers deliberately ignore candy, soda, and other junk foods in the center of the store. Then those items are thrust upon them at checkout.

Retailers know proximity to a food can trigger consumption. Google recently displayed dried figs and pistachios and hid M&M’s (still freely available in opaque containers) in its offices. As a result, employees ate 3 million fewer calories.

Marketing magazines, batteries or bottled water at checkout has no negative health effect. Unlike candy and soda, those products don’t exacerbate the most pressing public health challenges of our time.

Candy, chips and sugar drinks contribute to obesity, ranking among the top 25 sources of calories in Americans’ diets. Obesity costs more than $190 billion annually, is responsible for nearly one in five deaths, and leads to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other debilitating and life-shortening diseases.

Given the magnitude and devastating nature of obesity, retailers must end the practice of marketing soda, candy and other junk foods at checkout.

Instead, supermarkets should offer non-food items or healthy foods at checkout. Across the country, there are many retailers that offer at least one healthy checkout aisle in their stores. Store managers report that these aisles can be financially successful. In the United Kingdom, two grocery chains have eliminated candy from all checkout aisles.


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All shoppers benefit from healthy checkout. One analysis found that the average American woman could lose four pounds per year by not consuming food from checkout. And healthy checkout gives parents an opportunity to say “yes” to their children.

It’s time for American supermarkets to get rid of junk food, and instead offer healthier options at checkout.

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