Food and beverage price promotions may be potential targets for public health initiatives but have not been well documented. We assessed prevalence and patterns of price promotions for food and beverage products in a nationwide sample of food stores by store type, product package size, and product healthfulness. We also assessed associations of price promotions with community characteristics and product prices. In-store data collected in 2010-2012 from 8959 food stores in 468 communities spanning 46 U.S. states were used. Differences in prevalence of price promotions were tested across stores types, product varieties, and product package sizes. Multivariable regression analyses examined associations of presence of price promotions with community racial/ethnic and socioeconomic characteristics and with product prices. The prevalence of price promotions across all 44 products sampled was, on average, 13.4% in supermarkets (ranging from 9.1% for fresh fruits and vegetables to 18.2% for sugar-sweetened beverages), 4.5% in grocery stores (ranging from 2.5% for milk to 6.6% for breads and cereals), and 2.6% in limited service stores (ranging from 1.2% for fresh fruits and vegetables to 4.1% for breads and cereals). No differences were observed by community characteristics. Less-healthy versus more-healthy product varieties and larger versus smaller product package sizes generally had a higher prevalence of price promotion, particularly in supermarkets. On average, in supermarkets, price promotions were associated with 15.2% lower prices. The observed patterns of price promotions warrant more attention in public health food environment research and intervention.
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