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OBJECTIVE: There are concerns that price promotions encourage unhealthy dietary choices. This review aims to answer the following research questions (RQ1) what is the prevalence of price promotions on foods in high-income settings, and (RQ2) are price promotions more likely to be found on unhealthy foods? DESIGN: Systematic review of articles published in English, in peer-review journals, after 1 January 2000. SETTING: Included studies measured the prevalence of price promotions (i.e. percentage of foods carrying a price promotion out of the total number of foods available to purchase) in retail settings, in upper-mid to high-income countries. PARTICIPANTS: 'Price promotion' was defined as a consumer-facing temporary price reduction or discount available to all customers. The control group/comparator was the equivalent products without promotions. The primary outcome for this review was the prevalence of price promotions, and the secondary outcome was the difference between the proportions of price promotions on healthy and unhealthy foods. RESULTS: Nine studies (239 344 observations) were included for the meta-analysis for RQ1, the prevalence of price promotions ranged from 6 % (95 % CI 2 %, 15 %) for energy-dense nutrient-poor foods to 15 % (95 % CI 9 %, 25 %) for cereals, grains, breads and other starchy carbohydrates. However, the I-squared statistic was 99 % suggesting a very high level of heterogeneity. Four studies were included for the analysis of RQ2, of which two supported the hypothesis that price promotions were more likely to be found on unhealthy foods. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of price promotions is very context specific, and any proposed regulations should be supported by studies conducted within the proposed setting(s).

Original publication




Journal article


Public Health Nutr

Publication Date





1281 - 1296


Diet, Food, Marketing, Nutrition, Price promotions, Commerce, Consumer Behavior, Costs and Cost Analysis, Diet, Diet, Healthy, Food, Food Supply, Humans, Marketing, Nutritive Value, Prevalence