Modernization of African food retailing and (un)healthy food consumption

Makaiko G. Khonje and Matin Qaim

This paper looks at the impact of supermarkets and hypermarkets on diets in urban areas of Zambia, taking income and other socioeconomic factors into consideration. While limited in its scope to make comprehensive recommendations to policymakers, the authors highlight areas where additional regulation could help shape food environments and encourage consumers to eat healthier, more diverse diets. This study suggests that modern food retail outlets can help increase the consumption of nutritious foods, but they also contribute to increased consumption of ultraprocessed foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt. Importantly, the authors find that ultraprocessed foods are also purchased and consumed from kiosks and traditional retail outlets. This suggests that "there is a general shift towards the consumption of ultra-processed foods that cannot be attributed to modern retailers alone."

Some of the findings in this study might be specific to the Zambian context, but it provides important insights on shifting dietary preferences, and highlights the potential for public sector policies and retail practices to help shift consumption patterns in a positive direction for better nutrition. 

This resource has been peer reviewed