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Effects of nutrient profiling and price changes based on NuVal® scores on food purchasing in an online experimental supermarket

Epstein, Leonard H, Finkelstein, Eric A, Katz, David L, Jankowiak, Noelle, Pudlewski, Corrin, Paluch, Rocco A
Public health nutrition 2016 v.19 no.12 pp. 2157-2164
carbohydrates, diet, energy, energy costs, food purchasing, foods, nutrient content, nutritional adequacy, prices, supermarkets, women, United States
The goal of the present study was to apply experimental economic methods in an online supermarket to examine the effects of nutrient profiling, and differential pricing based on the nutrient profile, on the overall diet quality, energy and macronutrients of the foods purchased, and diet cost. Participants were provided nutrient profiling scores or price adjustments based on nutrient profile scores while completing a hypothetical grocery shopping task. Prices of foods in the top 20 % of nutrient profiling scores were reduced (subsidized) by 25 % while those in the bottom 20 % of scores were increased (taxed) by 25 %. We evaluated the independent and interactive effects of nutrient profiling or price adjustments on overall diet quality of foods purchased as assessed by the NuVal® score, energy and macronutrients purchased and diet cost in a 2×2 factorial design. A large (>10 000 food items) online experimental supermarket in the USA. Seven hundred and eighty-one women. Providing nutrient profiling scores improved overall diet quality of foods purchased. Price changes were associated with an increase in protein purchased, an increase in energy cost, and reduced carbohydrate and protein costs. Price changes and nutrient profiling combined were associated with no unique benefits beyond price changes or nutrient profiling alone. Providing nutrient profile score increased overall NuVal® score without a reduction in energy purchased. Combining nutrient profiling and price changes did not show an overall benefit to diet quality and may be less useful than nutrient profiling alone to consumers who want to increase overall diet quality of foods purchased.