Customer Characteristics and Shopping Patterns Associated with Healthy and Unhealthy Purchases at Small and Non-traditional Food Stores

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Small and non-traditional food stores (e.g., corner stores) are often the most accessible source of food for residents of lower income urban neighborhoods in the U.S. Although healthy options are often limited at these stores, little is known about customers who purchase healthy, versus less healthy, foods/beverages in these venues. We conducted 661 customer intercept interviews at 105 stores (corner stores, gas marts, pharmacies, dollar stores) in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, assessing all food and beverage items purchased. We defined three categories of “healthy” and four categories of “unhealthy” purchases. Interviews assessed customer characteristics [e.g., demographics, body-mass index (BMI)]. We examined associations between healthy versus unhealthy purchases categories and customer characteristics. Overall, 11% of customers purchased ≥1 serving of healthy foods/beverages in one or more of the three categories: 8% purchased fruits/vegetables, 2% whole grains, and 1% non-/low-fat dairy. Seventy-one percent of customers purchased ≥1 serving of unhealthy foods/beverages in one or more of four categories: 46% purchased sugar-sweetened beverages, 17% savory snacks, 15% candy, and 13% sweet baked goods. Male (vs. female) customers, those with a lower education levels, and those who reported shopping at the store for convenience (vs. other reasons) were less likely to purchase fruits/vegetables. Unhealthy purchases were more common among customers with a BMI ≥30 kg/m2 (vs. lower BMI). Results suggest intervention opportunities to increase healthy purchases at small and non-traditional food stores, particularly interventions aimed at male residents, those with lower education levels and residents living close to the store.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-78
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01DK104348 (PI: M. Laska). Additional funding for pre-baseline work was funded by the University of Minnesota Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, as well as the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins, which is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (OD) under award number U54HD070725. Further salary support provided to Dr. Caspi as a post-doctoral fellow was provided by NIH grant 5R25CA163184: NCI Cancer Related Health Disparities Education and Career Development Program. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.


  • Corner store
  • Customer purchases
  • Food retail
  • Healthy choices


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