Professor Paul Dobson

Date: Wednesday 27 April 2016
Time: 4 – 5:30pm
Room: TBC
Topic: Special Offers: Do Supermarkets Encourage Unhealthy Eating?

Professor Paul DobsonSpeaker: Professor Paul Dobson, Head of Norwich Business School, UEA

Register for your free place

Seminar brief

Couching prices as special offers helps supermarkets generate over £50bn in sales and accounts for two-fifths of all spending and over half of all food items sold in UK supermarkets. Price promotions can offer tempting savings for consumers, but while the deals might be good for our wallets, are they good for our waistlines and health? Is there a tendency for supermarkets to over-promote unhealthy foods – high in fat, sugar and salt – and encourage excessive consumption? With a quarter of the population classed as obese, are special offers helping to fuel the UK’s obesity epidemic?

This seminar outlines evidence from a detailed study of price promotions used by the UK leading supermarket chains, examining the nutrition of goods sold and the type of foods that are sold on promotion through price deals. The research finds promotional bias towards unhealthy foods and particular concern about the types of food and drink sold with prominent deep discount offers.

It is the promotional bias towards high sugar content products which stands out, where special offers are 20 per cent more likely to have red traffic light levels of sugar compared to non-offers. A further finding is that particularly prominent deep discount offers like ‘Buy-one-get-one-free’ (BOGOF) and other ‘Two for one’ deals are heavily skewed towards less healthy products – being more than twice as likely to have red traffic light levels of fat and over 40 per cent more likely to have red traffic light levels of saturated fat and sugar than items as a whole. The seminar discusses the implications of the findings for consumers, industry participants, and for policymakers concerned with tackling the UK’s obesity crisis.

Speaker biography

Paul is Professor of Business Strategy and Public Policy and Head of Norwich Business School. He joined UEA in July 2010 having previously held the Storaid Chair of Retailing and Chair of Competition Economics at Loughborough University since 1998. He is recognised as a leading international authority on pricing strategy, retail competition, and supply-chain relations. He has written extensively on these matters, advised numerous national and international organisations, and provided regular commentary for a wide range of media (including TV, radio, and news/trade press).

Paul's publications include books on strategic management and competition analysis, as well as papers in leading academic journals on matters such as price discrimination, countervailing power, strategic pricing behaviour, competitive strategy, vertical agreements, bargaining theory, industry policy, and competition law and antitrust matters. His current research interests focus on business strategy and public policy, including two ESRC-funded projects examining the impact of retail pricing on overeating and food waste and the dynamics of price competition in UK food retailing, and an MRC-funded project examining alcohol pricing.

His extensive advisory experience includes advising a wide range of competition and regulatory authorities and international organisations (including European Commission, OECD, UNCTAD, Office of Fair Trading, Financial Services Authority, and the Swiss, Hungarian and Serbian competition authorities). He has also advised numerous industry associations and major corporations on business and public policy and acted as an expert witness in competition law cases. His work spans a wide range of industries including retailing, wholesaling, fast-moving consumer goods, telecommunications, financial services, brewing, property selling, printed media and books, with advice covering mergers, strategic alliances, market investigations, vertical relations, and cooperative agreements.