What foods are US supermarkets promoting? A content analysis of supermarket sales circulars

Jennifer Martin-Biggers, Meredith Yorkin, Carena Aljallad, Caroline Ciecierski, Ivbaria Akhabue, Jessica McKinley, Katherine Hernandez, Courtney Yablonsky, Rachel Jackson, Virginia Quick, Carol Byrd-Bredbenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


This study compared the types of foods advertised in supermarket newspaper circulars across geographic region (US Census regions: northeast [n= 9], midwest [n= 15], south [n= 14], and west [n= 13]), obesity-rate region (i.e., states with CDC adult obesity rates of <25% [n= 14], 25 to <30% [n= 24], and ≥30% [n= 13]), and with MyPlate recommendations. All food advertisements on the first page of each circular were measured (±0.12-in.) to determine the proportion of space occupied and categorized according to food group. Overall, ≥50% of the front page of supermarket sales circulars was devoted to protein foods and grains; fruits, vegetables, and dairy, combined, were allocated only about 25% of the front page. The southern geographic region and the highest obesity-rate region both devoted significantly more advertising space to sweets, particularly sugar-sweetened beverages. The lowest obesity-rate region and western geographic region allocated the most space to fruits. Vegetables were allocated the least space in the western geographic region. Grains were the only food group represented in ads in proportions approximately equal to amounts depicted in the MyPlate icon. Protein foods exceeded and fruits, dairy, and vegetables fell below comparable MyPlate proportional areas. Findings suggest supermarket ads do not consistently emphasize foods that support healthy weight and MyPlate recommendations. More research is needed to determine how supermarket newspaper circulars can be used to promote healthy dietary patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-165
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


  • Advertisements
  • Content analysis
  • Food groups
  • Geographic regions
  • MyPlate recommendations
  • Obesity
  • Supermarkets


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