Suppliers of everyday products to supermarkets are losing money on 60 per cent of promotions, and the situation has been getting worse, according to data gathered over three years by Nielsen.
Around $500bn (£317bn) is spent on trade promotions globally each year, with makers of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) such as Unilever often investing 20 per cent of their revenue on these offers.
But most of these investments did not produce much in return, with 59 per cent of trade promotions across the Western world’s major markets making a net loss last year.
In addition, the average loss on these trade promotions has worsened in the last three years, the research giant said.
In the UK, the proportion of offers making a loss was 58 per cent, which was only slightly above the global average.
Nielsen said it analysed the performance of nearly 212 promotional events between 2012 and 2014 in seven countries including the US and Canada, the UK, Germany and France.
The best promotional returns last year were on skin cosmetics, toilet paper and dishwasher detergent, which made money 78 per cent of the time. The worst were on items such as fresh fillings and pates.