Retailer Marketing Strategies and Customer Purchasing of Sweetened Beverages in Convenience Stores

Published:February 28, 2022DOI:



      Marketing strategies for sweetened beverages (SBs) are pervasive across food retail. Yet few studies have examined how these strategies associate with planned and unplanned SB purchasing.


      This study aimed to examine whether customers with greater exposure to SB retail marketing (eg, advertisements and product placement) were more likely to purchase an SB and whether this varied by customer characteristics.


      This was an observational, cross-sectional study using objective customer purchasing and store assessment data from convenience and other small food stores.


      Participants were 1,604 food and beverage customers at 144 randomly sampled convenience and other small food stores in Minneapolis-St Paul, MN.


      Marketing strategies, including SB advertisements, placement, and shelf space were included.

      Main outcome measures

      We determined the probability of customers purchasing ≥4 fluid ounces of a ready-to-drink sugar and/or artificially sweetened beverage.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Associations between marketing strategies and purchasing were estimated using mixed regression models, controlling for customer characteristics and accounting for customers nested within stores.


      Fifty-six percent of customers purchased an SB; 14% also specified that it was an unplanned purchase. Customers were more likely to purchase an SB when exterior advertisements (P < .001) and advertisements hanging from the ceiling (P < .001) that promoted SBs were present. Customers with moderate and high cumulative exposure to SB marketing were significantly more likely to purchase SBs (51.2% and 54.9%, respectively) than those with lower exposure (34%); this effect was particularly salient for men. There were no significant associations between retail marketing strategies and unplanned purchases.


      Findings demonstrate that feasible and sustainable approaches are required from policy makers, retailers, and public health professionals to shift store environments away from cues that promote unhealthy beverage selections. Given that numerous retail actors are invested in the availability, promotion, and sales of SBs, changing the predominance of SB marketing in convenience stores will likely be challenging and require cross-sector collaboration.


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      M. R. Winkler is an assistant professor, Department of Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, at the time of the study, she was a postdoctoral researcher, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.


      K. Lenk is a researcher, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN


      D. J. Erickson is an associate professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.


      M. N. Laska is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.