Document Type


Date of Original Version



Business Administration



Targeted coupons strongly influence purchasing behavior and may represent an innovative approach for improving dietary behaviors.


The retail analytics firm, Dunnhumby, provided secondary retail data containing grocery transactions, targeted coupon exposures, and coupon use for 2500 households over 2-years. The USDA Quarterly At-Home Food Purchasing Database was used to categorize individual foods into 52 categories and combined into 12 food groups. Mixed effects linear models estimated the difference-in-difference effects of coupon exposure on category-level purchase rate/wk. pre- and post-campaign; models also tested effect modification by food category.


Category-level food purchases significantly increased post-campaign. Mean (SD) food purchases/wk. Among exposed households (17.34 (13.08) units/wk) vs. unexposed households (3.75 (4.59) units/wk) were higher (p < 0.001). Difference-in-difference effects of coupon exposure showed a higher increase in purchase rate among exposed vs. unexposed households (5.73 vs. 0.67, p < 0.001). Food category significantly modified the association between coupon exposure and coupon campaign. Category-level purchase rate among exposed vs. unexposed households was relatively higher in less healthful (e.g. convenience foods) vs. more healthful categories (e.g. nuts) with a 1.17 unit/wk. increase in convenience foods purchase (p < 0.001) vs. a 0.03 unit/wk. increase in nuts (p < 0.001). Exploratory analyses suggested that price elasticity of food categories for targeted coupons (1.02–2.81) was higher than previous estimates for untargeted coupons.


Across food categories, coupon exposure increased category-level purchase rate, with a relatively larger effect size for less healthful than more healthful categories. Promising results from this preliminary study suggest that experimental research is warranted to determine whether targeting with the explicit purpose of improving dietary quality can more effectively influence diet, and whether it can do so more cost effectively.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Xintong Guan and Maya Vadiveloo are in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences.