Estimating the effect of moving meat-free products to the meat aisle on sales of meat and meat-free products: A non-randomised controlled intervention study in a large UK supermarket chain.
Piernas C., Cook B., Stevens R., Stewart C., Hollowell J., Scarborough P., Jebb SA.
BACKGROUND: Reducing meat consumption could bring health and environmental benefits, but there is little research to date on effective interventions to achieve this. A non-randomised controlled intervention study was used to evaluate whether prominent positioning of meat-free products in the meat aisle was associated with a change in weekly mean sales of meat and meat-free products. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Weekly sales data were obtained from 108 stores: 20 intervention stores that moved a selection of 26 meat-free products into a newly created meat-free bay within the meat aisle and 88 matched control stores. The primary outcome analysis used a hierarchical negative binomial model to compare changes in weekly sales (units) of meat products sold in intervention versus control stores during the main intervention period (Phase I: February 2019 to April 2019). Interrupted time series analysis was also used to evaluate the effects of the Phase I intervention. Moreover, 8 of the 20 stores enhanced the intervention from August 2019 onwards (Phase II intervention) by adding a second bay of meat-free products into the meat aisle, which was evaluated following the same analytical methods. During the Phase I intervention, sales of meat products (units/store/week) decreased in intervention (approximately -6%) and control stores (-5%) without significant differences (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 1.01 [95% CI 0.95-1.07]. Sales of meat-free products increased significantly more in the intervention (+31%) compared to the control stores (+6%; IRR 1.43 [95% CI 1.30-1.57]), mostly due to increased sales of meat-free burgers, mince, and sausages. Consistent results were observed in interrupted time series analyses where the effect of the Phase II intervention was significant in intervention versus control stores. CONCLUSIONS: Prominent positioning of meat-free products into the meat aisle in a supermarket was not effective in reducing sales of meat products, but successfully increased sales of meat-free alternatives in the longer term. A preregistered protocol (https://osf.io/qmz3a/) was completed and fully available before data analysis.