(Un)healthy Checkout


It seems everywhere you shop these days, there is candy, soda, and other sugar-sweetened beverages at checkout. This is a powerful form of food marketing that contributes to unhealthy eating.

Just as the natural environment is polluted by chemical emissions, our food environment is polluted by a glut of sugar, salt, and fat—and checkout contributes to this unhealthy food environment. Despite high levels of obesity, retailers and food and beverage manufacturers push extra calories on people at every turn.

The widespread availability of junk food and sugary beverages means that even shopping for clothes or books has become yet another occasion for food companies to push (unhealthy) products on people.

Instead, imagine finding fresh and healthy options at the supermarket checkout. Join the movement to ensure that checkout does not undermine health. We deserve better.


1.Temptation at Checkout: The Food Industry’s Sneaky Strategy for Selling More” reveals how checkout works to prompt purchases and makes the case that stores should not use checkout to promote foods and beverages that undermine their customers’ health. Profiling healthy checkout projects around the United States, and three retail policies in the United Kingdom, the report shows that healthy checkout is not only possible, but would also be a major step forward in cleaning up the food environment. (In a hurry? For the executive summary of “Temptation at Checkout: The Food Industry’s Sneaky Strategy for Selling More,” click here.)

2. “Rigged: Supermarket Shelves for Sale” uncovers backroom deals between stores and food manufacturers that drive supermarket offerings, affecting the selection and promotion of particular products in the store. The cost to get one candy bar in every checkout aisle of the biggest U.S. supermarkets? As much as $1 million a year. Grocery stores have essentially created a “pay to play” scenario in which only the largest manufacturers can afford to get their items on grocery store shelves. (In a hurry? For a brief overview of “Rigged: Supermarket Shelves for Sale”, click here.)

3. Sugar Overload: Retail Checkout Promotes Obesity” examines the prevalence and healthfulness of foods and beverages in retail checkout aisles. Across 30 grocery stores and other retailers, the study found that candy, gum, energy bars, chips, cookies, soda, and other sugary drinks comprise the majority of food and beverages at checkout. (For a one-page summary of “Sugar Overload: Retail Checkout Promotes Obesity,” click here.)

4. ChangeLabs Solutions offers a Model Healthy Checkout Aisle Ordinance for municipalities, which can also be adapted to be a state law or board of health policy. Please contact CSPI at nutritionpolicy@cspinet.org if you would like technical assistance in introducing and passing an ordinance in your community.

5. Why Healthy Checkout?” is a two-page factsheet that details four evidence-based reasons food stores should rethink checkout. By rethinking checkout, retailers could support their customers’ health, rather than pushing the consumption of extra―and often unwanted―calories from candy, soda, and other junk food and sugary drinks.

6. Bridging the Gap measured the Availability of Healthy Food Products at Checkout Nationwide, 2010–2012 and found that many more checkouts pushed candy or sugary drinks than fresh fruits and vegetables or water.

7. To see a wide variety of checkout aisles—including healthy checkout—from around the country, visit our Pinterest boards “Healthy Checkout” and “Temptation at Checkout.”

8. If you are interested in learning why we buy what we buy at the supermarket, watch CSPI’s 11-minute whiteboard lecture “Anatomy of a Supermarket Purchase.”

9. Curious to learn 8 ways that supermarkets influence your shopping decisions? Click here to see how supermarkets get you to buy more food.

10. To join our work to make it easier for people to eat well, please sign up for our action network. Also, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.