Checkouts checked out - how supermarkets promote junk food to children and their parents

Results of a survey of national supermarkets and high-street chains. It found that food and drinks are regularly displayed at the checkouts and in the queuing areas in these stores, and the vast majority of the products are unhealthy and often within easy reach of children.

25/04/2012
Children's Food Campaign

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Checkouts Checked Out survey reportMost children in the UK don’t eat a diet that is good for their health and meets dietary recommendations, and
childhood obesity is at an all-time high.

Food promotion in all its forms – on TV, websites, social media and via sponsorship of children’s heroes -
influences what children choose to eat.

To help tackle this problem, in 2003, the Food Commission launched a campaign, run by the Parents Jury, called “Chuck Snacks off the Checkout!”, calling for an end to the promotion of unhealthy food and drink products at supermarket checkouts. That campaign saw 3,500 checkouts in 300 stores surveyed and, in response, some companies reduced their promotions of junk food at their checkouts or added healthy options.

However, following complaints from parents that the tactic seemed to be increasingly used by other high street retailers, we were prompted to revisit this issue.

We carried out a survey in 48 branches of 14 national supermarkets and high street chains. We examined the number of checkouts where food and drink was on display in each branch and assessed whether the food being promoted was healthy or not. Our survey found that food was regularly displayed at the checkouts and in the queuing areas in these stores, and the vast majority of food promoted was unhealthy, with few healthy options on offer. In many cases, the food was positioned to attract the attention of children – and was often within their easy reach.

This junk food promotion is virtually inescapable for shoppers in these stores, and helps to ‘nudge’ people into less healthy behaviour. This undermines parents’ efforts to help their children eat a healthy diet and get the best start in life.

The history of campaigning on this issue suggests that retailers are unable or unwilling to stop voluntarily promoting junk food in their stores in this way. The Children’s Food Campaign is therefore calling for robust
Government action to help parents and bring an end to this type of marketing of junk food to children.

Find out more about the Chuck Junk Off the Checkouts campaign at: www.sustainweb.org/childrensfoodcampaign/our_campaigns/

Summary of findings:

  • Our survey of 48 branches of fourteen national supermarkets and high street chains found that food was regularly displayed at the checkouts and in the queuing areas, and the vast majority of food promoted was unhealthy.
  • In many cases, the food was positioned to attract the attention of children – and was often within their reach – much to the annoyance of parents we asked.
  • We therefore urge supermarkets and other high street retailers to remove unhealthy food and drink products from all their checkouts and queuing areas, and replace them with healthy alternatives and/or non-food products.
  • The Advertising Standards Authority should extend its remit to include in-store positioning of products and all point-of-sale marketing.
  • We call on the government to make removing unhealthy products from checkouts an integral part of its Responsibility Deal. 

 

 

 

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Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.