Do You Use Coupons? Guess What?

A couple handing a credit card to a grocery store cashierGrocery store coupons influence shoppers’ food purchases. Unfortunately, according to a recent CDC study, many of those coupons aren’t very good for you.

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Out of most available online store coupons, 25% are for processed snack foods, candies, and desserts (the largest category). Approximately 12% of coupons were for beverages, more than half of which were for sodas, juices, and sports/energy drinks. Few coupons were available for fruits (<1%) or vegetables (3%). Grocery retailers may be uniquely positioned to positively influence Americans’ dietary patterns, and engaging retailers in efforts to provide store coupons for healthy food items may help address public health priorities.

Why is this such a problem? The CDC has highlighted four important facts about consumers:

  • The failure of most Americans to meet dietary recommendations contributes to the obesity epidemic.
  • Interventions targeting consumers’ grocery store purchases can aid in efforts to improve the dietary choices.
  • Food prices are an important driver of consumption patterns.
  • Almost one-third of shoppers now use online coupons.

How Available Were “Healthy” Coupons?

“Healthful foods” generally include fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, unprocessed meats, and nuts and seeds; unhealthful foods are high in fat, sodium, and added sugars. According to the study, few coupons were available for more healthful alternatives, such as fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed meats. This data is consistent with previous research showing that grocery stores infrequently promote foods that support a healthy weight.


There may be a few different reasons for this, including the fact that, because of volatility in wholesale prices of fruits and vegetables, retailers have difficulty forecasting their prices.