Shoppers who love the wholesale value of Costco and budget-friendly deals at Walmart are buying foods that are heavier in fat, sugar, and salt than shoppers who stick to traditional grocery stores, shows a new study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
At “supercenter” merchandisers and wholesale stores, and even smaller convenience stores, “the energy, total sugar, sodium, and saturated fat densities of household packaged foods purchases (PFPs) from mass merchandisers, warehouse clubs, and convenience stores were higher compared with grocery stores,” the study found.
What’s more, although the majority of food shopping does still take place at grocery stores, the percentage of PFPs from larger stores increased significantly during the period studied, 2000 to 2012. Purchases from mass merchandisers nearly doubled, from 13.1 percent to 23.9 percent, while warehouse club purchases went from 6.2 percent to 9.8.
It’s not quite clear why consumers’ less healthy shopping habits reveal themselves in larger shopping settings — perhaps because bigger retailers simply offer more options for packaged foods, or because buying in bulk makes shoppers consume those sugar- and salt-laden calories faster, so they can continue shopping big. The researchers warn, however, that this trend might indicate a looming public health issue for America — our love of buying in bulk is bulking us up, too.