Using In-Home Scanner Data to Analyze Beverage Purchasing Patterns of Chinese Urban Households
Background: Due to recent rapid economic development, China has seen changes in what foods households are purchasing as well as the general health of the population.
In the United States and other high-income countries, in-home scanner programs allow consumer packaged goods companies to measure household level grocery store food purchases and analyze trends of certain food categories while also linking to demographic information of the purchaser. Since few similar research has been conducted in China, especially with beverages, this study aims to examine beverage purchasing patterns among urban households in China across different demographics. Using the results, the study hopes to initiate conversations about what, if any, opportunities exist for health policy to intervene for a healthier Chinese population.
Methods: Secondary data analysis was conducted using scanner data to quantitatively analyze the beverage purchasing patterns among urban households in China from 2011-2013. Scanner data were acquired by Research Triangle Institute (RTI) from Kantar Worldpanel (Kantar Group) and provided for this study. Data were collected from four income levels in 24 provinces/municipalities from a panel of 40,000 Chinese households.
Results: Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSB) made up 74% of the total volume of beverages, with the majority of the SSB volume coming from Juice Drinks (29%), Carbonated Soft Drinks (CSD) (21%), and Ready-To-Drink (RTD) Tea (19%). Between income groups, higher income households purchased significantly higher volumes of RTD Coffee (p<0.0001), 100% Juice (p=0.01), Functional Drinks (p<0.0001), Juice Drinks (p=0.01), RTD Tea (p=0.02), and CSD (p=0.03) than their lower income counterparts. Coastal provinces had lower beverage price points and higher purchasing amounts than interior provinces. Total and per household purchase volumes of Functional Drinks, Juice Drinks, 100% Juice, Packaged Water, and RTD Coffee increased annually, but only the volume increases of Functional Drinks (p=0.004) and RTD Coffee (p=0.006) were statistically significant between 2011 and 2013, while Soybean Milk decreased significantly (p<0.0001). Per household purchase volumes of CSD, Juice Drinks, and 100% Juice all peaked during the busiest holiday season, the Chinese New Year, while Packaged Water and RTD Tea peaked during the second biggest season, National Week.
Conclusions: Because of the majority of beverage volume purchased being SSB, the significance of higher income households purchasing certain SSB more, the volume of certain SSB increasing every year, and the patterns of purchasing volume based on geography and certain periods of the year, creative health policies and campaigns should be addressed now in China to address the growing trends that other countries have seen linking SSB consumption to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Future research should examine whether front-of-package labeling, SSB taxes, advertisement restrictions, regulations around schools, and nutrition education campaigns could reduce SSB purchases in China.
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