Compared to traditional markets, supermarkets offer a wider variety of processed and highly processed foods and beverages, often in larger packaging sizes and combined with special promotional campaigns.
Photo: LAIF

05.07.2019

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Many African countries are experiencing a rapid spread of modern supermarkets. This “supermarket revolution” is changing food environments in terms of food variety, prices, processing levels, packaging sizes, and shopping atmosphere. A research study in Kenya has analysed the effects of supermarkets on adult and child nutrition in urban areas.

In many African countries, supermarkets are spreading rapidly, complementing and partly replacing traditional food markets and grocery stores. Compared to traditional markets, supermarkets offer a wider variety of processed and highly processed foods and beverages, often in larger packaging sizes and combined with special promotional campaigns. Hence, one important question is whether the spread of supermarkets contributes to rising overweight and obesity. While in the past, overnutrition was primarily a problem in rich countries, obesity rates in low- and middle-income countries are rapidly catching up. Obesity is associated with a number of chronic diseases – such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems and certain forms of cancer – that African health systems are not well prepared to deal with.

Taking stock in Kenya

Analysing the effects of supermarkets on diets and nutrition is not easy, because of many possible confounding factors that need to be controlled for. In our study, we focused on medium-sized towns in Central Kenya, some of which already have a supermarket while others have not.

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