This article describes and addresses the challenges researchers face when utilizing natural experimental studies to evaluate changes to the retail food environment. Through the use of case studies, the article describes strategies and approaches for overcoming these challenges. The challenges are divided into categories of: 1) study design and analysis; 2) selection of participants, selection of measure, and obtainment of data; and 3) real-world considerations. Advantages and disadvantages to each approach are provided. Consideration of these challenges and best practices can minimize bias and ensure natural experimental studies effectively assess the impact of policies and programs on food access, availability, and intake for use by stakeholders, policymakers, and food retailers.
Best Practices for Using Natural Experiments to Evaluate Retail Food and Beverage Policies and Interventions
Evaluating the implementation and impact of a healthier checkout programme at a regional convenience store chain
This study aimed to test the feasibility of implementing and evaluating a healthier checkout pilot study in a convenience store chain in New Hampshire. A quasi-experimental study was conducted comparing a 3-month ‘healthier checkouts’ intervention in ten convenience stores which stocked eight healthier items in the checkout space and ten … More
Calorie labeling is now required on all large U.S. chain restaurant menus, but its influence on consumer behavior is mixed. This study examines whether different parent-targeted messages encourage parents to order lower-calorie meals for their children in a hypothetical online setting. An online RCT was conducted with diverse primary caregivers … More
Restaurant kids’ meal beverage offerings before and after implementation of healthy default beverage policy statewide in California compared with citywide in Wilmington, Delaware
In 2019, California and Wilmington, Delaware implemented policies requiring healthier default beverages with restaurant kids’ meals. The current study assessed restaurant beverage offerings and manager perceptions in a sample of quick-service restaurants. Pre-implementation, the most common kids’ meal beverages on California menus were unflavored milk and water (78·8 %, 52·0 … More