Public Health Scotland (PHS) was asked by the Scottish Government to identify any published evidence that could tell us about the potential impact of exclusions to the proposed restrictions on the promotion of food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS), by price and store location. PHS carried out structured searches and produced two briefings summarising the available evidence.

Briefing 1: Where people shop, examines published evidence on where different population groups purchase food and non-alcoholic drinks, particularly focusing on shopping patterns by store size or type and population dimensions of socio-economic status, rurality, ethnicity, disability and old age.

Briefing 2: Meal deals, examines published evidence on the role of meal deals in driving consumption of HFSS products, and the potential impact of including or excluding meal deals in the restrictions.

Main points

Briefing 1: Where people shop

No published evidence was found that examines where different segments of the population shop specific to outlet size by either floor space or number of employees.

There is some evidence for shopping patterns by store type, however this is limited in quantity, predominantly observational and highly heterogeneous, with significant variation in the study design, populations and definitions used, making it challenging to draw definitive conclusions.

The very limited evidence suggests that there may be some association between lower socio-economic status and a tendency to shop in local stores, particularly for those in receipt of federal food aid in the United States. It is unclear how this might translate to a Scottish or UK context, where the use of discount stores appears more important. Limited evidence also suggests that the retail environment in remote and rural areas is generally restricted in choice and accessibility and while the majority choose to travel to larger supermarkets that are further away, those without access to transport may be more likely to shop in local or convenience stores.

Briefing 2: Meal deals

No literature that directly addressed the research questions was found, therefore research that may contribute to understanding of the broader policy area was considered. A broad range of evidence was identified that concerned the status of meal deals as a health risk and the potential solutions to that risk, but that evidence was generally not definitive, and findings were rarely supported by multiple studies.

Given the limited nature of the evidence base, and particularly the limitations of evidence pertaining specifically to the Scottish or UK context, firm conclusions about the extent of the health problem presented by meal deals cannot be drawn.

However, across the body of evidence as a whole, experts and researchers typically conclude that meal deals do drive unhealthy eating and are an appropriate target for public health policy intervention.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email

To report any issues with a publication, please email

Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
Was this page helpful?