The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2016 | Impact of food price promotions on consumer behaviour and public health (LSHTM) & (LSHTM) & (BBK)
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Impact of Food Price Promotions on Consumer Behaviour and Public Health

Principle Supervisor: Dr Laura Cornelsen (LSHTM)

Co-Supervisor: Dr Walter Beckert (Bbk)

Co-Supervisor: Professor Richard Smith (LSHTM)

High bodyweight and unhealthy diets are two major risk factors contributing to an increasing global burden of non-communicable diseases. Obesity is estimated to cost the UK society £47bn a year including direct medical costs and costs releated to reduced economic productivity due to sick leave and premature mortality. Reducing this burden is one of the biggest challenges facing health systems and governments worldwide, including in the UK.

Lower prices of unhealthier foods relative to prices of healthier foods are regularly discussed as one of the possible drivers of poor diets and obesity. To address this, fiscal policies, such as taxes on unhealthy foods and beverages and subsidies on healthy foods are frequently proposed as potential policy responses.

However, there is a considerable gap in the academic research on the health impact of food and beverage price promotions in retail stores. The extent to which such pricing strategies contribute to over-consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages or encourage consumption of healthy alternatives is largely unclear. In the UK food retail outlets food price promotions (e.g. discounted, buy 1 get 1 free, or 3FOR2 offers) are very frequent. If price promotions encourage disproportionately consumption of unhealthy foods, then limiting the wide use of such practice, and/or encouraging price promotions more on healthier foods could be an additional policy solution.

The aim of this project is to analyse the impact of price promotions on consumer food and non-alcoholic beverage purchasing behaviour in the UK and to explore the potential public health impact of re-structuring the use of this type of promotional activity towards healthier foods, and to compare this to other policy suggestions such as fiscal policies, product reformulation, or regulation on serving and portion sizes.

The student will have a unique opportunity to use a recent, large and detailed commercial dataset of household expenditures on foods and beverages in the UK to model the impact of price promotions using econometric models of consumer demand.

The project will allow the prospective student to undertake rigourous economic modelling work in a research area that has high current policy interest.

Candidate Requirements

We invite applications from outstanding and highly motivated students who have a Masters degree in economics, econometrics, health economics, mathematical economics, marketing research or similar. An undergraduate degree (1st class honours or 2.1) in economics or in a relevant discipline with demonstrable strong quantitative component (e.g. econometrics, statistics or mathematics) is desirable.

The studentship only covers fees at the Home/EU rate.

Key References

Cornelsen L, Green R, Dangour AD, Turner R, Mazzocchi M, Shankar B, Smith RD. What happens to the pattern of food consumption when food prices change? Evidence from a systematic review and meta-analysis of food cross-price elasticities globally. Health Economics, 2014; 24(12):1548-59.

Nakamura R, Suhrcke M, Jebb SA, Pechey R, Almiron-Roig E, Marteau TM.  Price promotions on healthier vs. less healthy foods: a hierarchical regression analysis of the impact on sales and social patterning of responses to promotions in Great Britain. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2015; 101(4):808-16.

Public Health England. Sugar Reduction: The evidence for action. Annexe 4: An analysis of the role of price promotions on the household purchases of food and drinks high in sugar. Available from

Griffith R, O’Connell M, Smith, K. Relative prices, consumer preferences, and the demand for food. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 2015; 31 (1): 116-130.

Further information about PhDs at LSHTM is available from:

Application forms and details about how to apply are available from:

LSHTM uses an online application system, please see:

Please contact for queries related to the submission of the application

Please use the standard LSHTM application system to apply for this studentship and state clearly under the funding section that you are applying for this particular studentship. Since you are applying for an existing project you don't need to include a research proposal, so please instead upload a document which states that you are applying for this studentship.

If your fee status will not be assessed as Home/EU please provide an explanation on how you plan to fund the difference between the Home/EU fee rate and the Overseas fee rate.

Closing date for application is:

Monday 18th April 2016