Sainsbury’s: Healthy Lifestyles

Healthy Lifestyles

The Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics group at LIDA are working closely with the healthy lifestyles team at Sainsbury’s to better understand patterns in sales of food and drink from a nutrition, health and sustainability perspective.

Dr Michelle Morris explains “We are especially interested to understand population level purchasing patterns, social and demographic variation in patterns and how these compare to traditional nutritional data on food and drink consumption.

Using data on household food and drink sales at an individual product level, at scale and over an extended time period has not been possible in nutrition research to date. Access to these commercial data requires significant investment in secure data infrastructure, data science expertise and in this case nutrition expertise. These have come together in my team at the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics, in collaboration with the Consumer Data Research Centre.”


What can supermarket loyalty card data reveal about food purchase behaviours?

Traditional dietary assessment methods in research can be challenging, with participant burden to complete an interview, diary, 24h recall or questionnaire and researcher burden to code the food record to obtain a nutrient breakdown.  Self-reported assessment methods are subject to recall and social desirability biases, in addition to selection bias from the nature of volunteering to take part in a research study.

Supermarket loyalty card transaction records, linked to back of pack nutrient information, present a novel opportunity to use objective records of food purchases to assess diet at a household level. With a large sample size and multiple transactions, it is possible to review variation in food purchases over time and across different geographical areas.


Example Projects


Evaluating transaction records as a method of dietary assessment

“My PhD project explores what supermarket transactions can tell us about the dietary choices people make. By comparing dietary data from loyalty card transactions, with estimates from a more established dietary assessment tool, my work contributes to our scientific understanding of transaction data as a new research method.

The project benefits from real-world data, provided by Sainsbury’s, but also from the strength of the partnership we’ve built over the past few years. I’ve been fortunate to engage with a broad range of colleagues from different functions across Sainsbury’s; from nutrition and information security, to market research, customer insights, buyers and product developers.

The wide reach of this project has given me a unique perspective of business operations, structure and priorities. It’s extremely rewarding to see the early insights from my work already contributing to the Public Health Nutrition initiatives that Sainsbury’s are engaged with, both internally and as part of the wider network of food retailers.”

Vicki Jenneson, PhD Student, ESRC Data Analytics and Society Centre for Doctoral Training

Variation in fruit and vegetable purchasing patterns in Leeds: using novel loyalty card transaction data
Victoria Jenneson, Becky Shute, Darren Greenwood, Graham Clarke, Stephen Clark, Tim Rains, Michelle Morris.


Compliance with the Eatwell guide – by mapping foods purchased to the categories of the UK Eatwell Guide we are able to review the populations performance against these national recommendations. Sainsbury’s are building upon this work to encourage customers to adopt a healthier and more sustainable diet as part of their strategy to become carbon NetZero by 2040.

Compliance with the Eatwell guide: a case study using supermarket transaction records in Yorkshire and the Humber
Stephen Clark, Becky Shute, Victoria Jenneson, Tim Rains, Michelle Morris.

Understanding changes in meat consumption patterns in the UK – Vegetarian and vegan diets are increasing in popularity in the UK, but little is known on how people’s overall dietary patterns change when they reduce their meat consumption.  We’re using machine learning techniques to identify households that reduce their meat consumption and examine the dietary patterns associated with that transition.

Exploring variations in fruit and vegetable purchasing patterns – we’re observing variations by age, gender, deprivation, geographically across a city and throughout the seasons to produce tailored insights to inform retailers and policymakers regarding areas for fruit and vegetable promotion.


Future Collaboration

Given the increasing importance of improving diets with respect to both health and sustainability there is great potential for this collaboration to grow. The current National Food Strategy and Obesity Strategy place strong emphasis on improving diets, for which retailers will play an important role. This collaboration will enable the co-production of data-led nutrition research and innovation to make real-world impacts.

“Our vision is to help customers Live Well for Less, with an ambition to develop and deliver healthy and sustainable diets for all.  Data insight is critical to our journey to help customers to Eat Well.  Our collaboration with LIDA has allowed us to refine our data through a health lens, in ways that we had not achieved previously.  These insights, methodologies and principles provide proof of concepts and learnings that we can leverage internally to deliver deeper insights and data-driven decision making.”

Nilani Sritharan, Group Healthy Living Manager, Sainsbury’s