New research reveals that 4 in 5 people think supermarkets should do more to tackle obesity

Posted On: 
26th July 2019

A new report has revealed that almost half of the public (48%) believe that legislation should be introduced to require supermarkets to proactively encourage healthier choices.

Credit: 
PA

A new report, Health on the Shelf published today (26th July 2019) by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Slimming World, exposes the marketing tactics used to drive sales of unhealthy products and reveals that supermarket layout, pricing strategies and shopping environment is fuelling the obesity epidemic. The report is published in advance of the Government’s expected response to the consultation on layout and price promotions.

The report also reveals that over one third (36%) of shoppers reported that they impulse purchase unhealthy products because they are on special offer, and one in five say supermarkets cause them to go off track when attempting to lose weight.

An audit of small, ‘local’ style supermarkets found that many unhealthy products such as confectionary and crisps are located in multiple prominent areas around the store, including at the end of aisles and around the checkout. RSPH and Slimming World are now calling for government and industry to do more to support supermarkets in encouraging healthier choices to consumers.

Lib Dem health spokesperson Baroness Judith Jolly said:

“This paper is full of innovative ideas and clearly there is a desire for things to be done differently. We need to grasp the issue of obesity in this country or it will be children with an increased risk of cancer, diabetes and so on who will pay the price.  

Health on the Shelf recommends:

  • A set of key principles apply to all supermarkets, regardless of size or location, to include:
  • Greater allocation of shelf space to healthier products, based on the Government’s EatWell Guide;
  • The introduction of a healthy rewards scheme;
  • Provision of recipe cards and cooking demonstrations on how to use ingredients to create healthy meals.
  • Business rate reductions for supermarkets and retailers who take health seriously by adopting key principles.
  • A rating system, similar to the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme ‘scores on the doors’, based on the proportion of healthy and unhealthy products stocked. 

To bring this to life, RSPH and Slimming World have opened the UK’s first ever supermarket designed by public health experts to nudge consumers to make healthier choices. Nudge at The People’s Supermarket, located in Central London, is open to the public, and highlights how supermarkets can be health promoting environments.

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “The environment in which we live is a major contributor towards obesity, and supermarkets have both the power and influence as well as a responsibility in tackling their contribution to this “obesogenic” environment. There has been some progress by supermarkets in areas such as removing junk from check outs, but our research shows that shoppers and industry experts feel there is much more supermarkets can and should do to promote healthier choices – reducing the shelf allocation for unhealthy products, providing clearer labelling and signage and even changing the shopper experience. We wanted to practically show what this new approach could look like, by unveiling the UK’s first supermarket designed by public health experts.