Store patterns of availability and price of food and beverage products across a rural region of Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Catherine L. MahEmail author
  • Nathan Taylor
Quantitative Research



Rural populations bear a disproportionate burden of diet-related risk, and one important explanation is retail food access disparities. Much existing literature has focused on subjective measures of the rural retail food environment, as well as urban-rural differences. The purpose of this paper is to examine how objectively measured food availability and prices vary within a rural region, and to explore how store features predict rural food availability and prices.


We conducted an observational audit of a census of rural food stores (n = 78) using a modified Nutrition Environment Measures Survey instrument. The study was conducted on the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador. Observed prices in-store were matched to nutrient composition data and converted to three units of measure for all analyses: unit price ($/kg), serving price ($/serving), and energy price ($/kcal). We examined average availability and prices across the region, and how store features were associated with prices.


Healthy food options were generally less available across the stores than regular items. However, with few exceptions, there were no clear or consistent patterns of difference in availability or pricing between stores of different types. No single product category stood out in terms of a clear price pattern. Store characteristics (including store type, size, ownership, or rurality) did not predict food prices.


Food availability and prices varied in this rural region, but with limited differences between stores of different types. More research is needed on measuring rural environmental determinants of diet in Canada.


Rural food access Rural food environment Grocery stores Food prices Food audit 



Les populations rurales supportent un fardeau disproportionné de risques liés au régime alimentaire, ce qui s’explique entre autres par les disparités d’accès aux magasins d’alimentation au détail. Une grande partie des articles scientifiques porte cependant sur les indicateurs subjectifs de l’environnement alimentaire au détail en zone rurale et sur les différences entre zones urbaines et rurales. Nous avons cherché à examiner objectivement les variations dans la disponibilité et les prix des aliments dans une région rurale et à déterminer si les caractéristiques des magasins prédisent la disponibilité et les prix des aliments en zone rurale.


Nous avons mené un audit d’observation des magasins d’alimentation recensés dans une zone rurale (n = 78) à l’aide de l’instrument Nutrition Environment Measures Survey modifié. L’étude a été menée sur la presqu’île Avalon à Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador. Les prix observés en magasin ont été assortis à la teneur en éléments nutritifs et convertis en trois unités de mesure pour toutes nos analyses : le prix de vente unitaire ($/kg), le prix par portion ($/portion) et le prix énergétique ($/kcal). Nous avons examiné la disponibilité et les prix moyens dans la région et les associations entre les caractéristiques des magasins et les prix.


Les aliments sains étaient généralement moins disponibles en magasin que les denrées alimentaires ordinaires. Par contre, à quelques exceptions près, nous n’avons pas observé de schémas de différence clairs ou systématiques entre différents types de magasins, que ce soit dans la disponibilité ou dans les prix des aliments. Aucune catégorie de produits ne s’est démarquée en affichant une tendance claire pour les prix. Les caractéristiques des magasins (type, taille, propriété ou ruralité) n’ont pas permis de prédire les prix des aliments.


La disponibilité et les prix des aliments variaient dans cette région rurale, mais les différences selon le type de magasins étaient limitées. Il faudrait pousser la recherche pour mesurer les déterminants du régime liés à l’environnement rural au Canada.


Accès aux aliments en zone rurale Environnement alimentaire en zone rurale Épiceries Prix des aliments Audit alimentaire 



K Jameson and N Moody contributed to conceptualization and oversight for the Health Canada project. Thanks to the stores and research team members, particularly B Knox, S Pomeroy, B Harnett, M Caravan, and L Burgess who contributed to field data collection. R Harris, L Minaker, and Y Yi offered feedback on earlier analyses.

Funding information

This work was supported in part by Health Canada’s Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion [MOA #4500327812 to CM]; the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [FRN PG1-144782 to CM]; the Canada Research Chairs program [to CM]; and the Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarship program [to NT].

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethics approval

This research did not involve human subjects but was reviewed by an institutional research ethics board, as part of a multicomponent project. This study was conducted according to the guidelines laid down in the Declaration of Helsinki and all procedures involving human subjects were approved by the Health Research Ethics Board of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Supplementary material

41997_2019_260_MOESM1_ESM.docx (47 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 46 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Health Administration, Faculty of HealthDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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