Supermarkets should stop selling sugary snacks alongside checkouts or near shop entrances in a bid to reduce childhood obesity, health campaigners have said.
The Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) believes that families are being bombarded with sugary promotions when they go shopping, and that restrictions on the placement of unhealthy food and drinks in prominent locations of supermarkets is urgently needed and should be restricted by the Government.
The OHA visited the five biggest supermarket chains in the UK – Aldi, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – to survey the types of food and drinks products promoted in the stores.
They found 43% of all food and drink products located in prominent areas such as store entrances, checkout areas and aisle ends were for food and drinks that were high in sugar.
Three of the five supermarkets surveyed had sugary food and drinks such as chocolate and sweets positioned at checkout areas.
These included Asda, where 73% of food and drink products promoted at checkouts were sugary foods including sweets and chocolate bars, Morrisons, where 47% were, and Aldi, where 30% of food and drink products promoted at checkouts were sugary foods including flapjacks and popcorn.
The use of movable free-standing display units (FSDUs) to promote sugary products was particularly common, with 79% of products in them being sugary foods.
Evidence shows when products are placed in convenient and eye-catching locations, such as at shop entrances, checkouts or aisle ends, sales of these products increase.
Promotions for unhealthy food and drinks encourage shoppers to buy more and consume excess sugar and calories.
More than a third of children are classified as overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school aged 11, which increases their risk of developing conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart and liver disease in later life.
OHA said many products placed in these prominent places items included in Public Health England’s (PHE) sugar reduction programme due to their significant contribution to children’s sugar consumption or drinks subject to the soft drinks industry levy.
Less than 1% of food and drink products located in high-profile areas were fruit or vegetable products.
OHA said the visibility of products in shops influences what consumers choose to buy.
OHA lead Caroline Cerny said: “We know that where products are located in shops influences how likely we are to purchase them.
“Sugary treats prominently displayed at checkouts or store entrances will be highly tempting to anyone but especially children who will then likely pester their parents to buy them.
“With more than one in three children leaving primary school with a weight classified as overweight or obese, it is clear that action is needed to create healthier environments for families across the country.
“Our survey shows that some supermarkets seem to be taking positive steps to limit where they promote unhealthy food, but we need a level playing field.
“That’s why the OHA is calling on Government to restrict the placement of unhealthy food and drinks in high-profile locations in supermarkets to help families make healthier choices when shopping”.