Obesity Action Scotland conducted this new study, where test purchasers in Glasgow collected data from six supermarkets shortly before COVID-19 lockdown in March, 2020 and in November and December, 2020. The study analyzed a total of 18 online shopping episodes, using two different baskets: one had only healthy food and drink products while another had a more typical mix of healthy and unhealthy products, including junk food and alcohol.
Researchers found that the average grocery shopping experience involved,
- 510 promotions, of which 61% were non-monetary and 39% were price-related such as multi-buy offers;
- One tenth of these promotions encouraged shoppers towards alcoholic products;
- Temporary price reduction was the most frequently employed type of price promotion by all six supermarkets followed by multi-buy offers; and
- Alcohol was most pushed on shoppers in the run up to Christmas in November and December, 2020 than in March, 2020.
Multi-buy deals for alcohol are banned in Scotland. This study found other price promotions, such as price discounting, are still widely used by the alcohol industry to push people into buying more alcohol.
These practices of the industry are problematic, as Alcohol Focus Scotland reports. About three-quarters of all alcohol in Scotland is bought off-trade including in supermarkets. With the COVID-19 pandemic this means buying more through online platforms of the supermarkets, where the alcohol industry uses relentless promotions.
Over the last year more of us have been shopping online where we are regularly exposed to these kinds of promotions, encouraging us to buy even more alcohol,” said Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, as per The Herald Scotland.
The heavy marketing and promotion of alcohol encourages impulse purchases and implies that alcohol is a normal part of everyday life. The reality is that alcohol causes the deaths of 10 Scots every day, as well as a number of serious health conditions including breast and bowel cancer, heart disease and stroke. As with unhealthy food, we need action to introduce a comprehensive approach to restricting alcohol promotions both in store and online.”Alison Douglas, chief executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland
The practice of the alcohol industry to push people towards alcohol products is an example of the use of “dark nudges,” a behavioral economic approach which exploits people’s cognitive biases. A research article by Petticrew, Maani and colleagues in 2020 titled “Dark Nudges and Sludge in Big Alcohol: Behavioral Economics, Cognitive Biases, and Alcohol Industry Corporate Social Responsibility” illustrated how the alcohol industry exploits these cognitive biases to skew people’s choices. Nudges which push people towards harmful products were termed “dark nudges”.