News / Children's Food Campaign

Asda, Morrisons and Iceland named as 'worst offenders' for undermining children's healthy eating

Children's Food Campaign survey finds unhealthy food and soft drinks at the checkouts of leading supermarkets and high-street stores, despite a decade of promises to remove them.

Checkouts Checked Out report launched 25 April.
Campaigners call for chucking junk off the checkouts, once and for all
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The Children’s Food Campaign today launched a report naming Asda, Morrisons and Iceland as the “worst offenders” for undermining parents’ efforts to feed their children healthily, by displaying junk food on four out of five checkouts in their stores. The Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose were also criticised for making families have to queue past displays of unhealthy snacks to reach the tills [1].

Checkouts Checked Out survey reportThe Checkouts Checked Out report found that most supermarket branches and high street stores routinely promote unhealthy snacks at their checkout tills and in their queuing areas, despite several having promised a decade ago to reduce this unhealthy marketing practice. The report found that in many cases, junk food was positioned at children’s eye level, prompting children to pester their parents for sweets, crisps and soft drinks. The authors of the report, who campaign for children’s health, have called for junk to be chucked off the checkouts once and for all.

Key findings in the Checkouts Checked Out report were:

  • ‘No change at the till’ as most high-street supermarkets continue to promote and sell unhealthy snacks at the checkout, a decade after promises to reduce or remove them.
  • Bad practices now spreading to smaller format stores and non-food retailers such as HMV, New Look, Superdrug and WHSmith, who all feature sweets and chocolates in the queuing area near the checkouts, and do not offer healthy alternatives.

Sophie Durham, Children’s Food Campaign spokesperson and co-author of the Checkouts Checked Out report, said: “Impulse purchases at the checkout can add several hundred unplanned calories to a family shopping basket. Supermarkets claim to be responsible retailers, yet they continue to put their profits ahead of families’ health. They should stop prompting pester power and help parents by removing promotions of sugary, fatty, salty and calorie-laden snacks and drinks near the checkouts, especially those placed within easy reach of children. It’s time to get the junk off the checkouts once and for all.”

Amanda Flint, mother of four and campaign supporter, said, “Shopping with my kids is hard enough as it is, so to be subjected to rows of sweets and chocolates at the checkout is maddening. I want it to be easier to choose healthy options for my family.”

Annie Seeley, a nutritionist and co-ordinator of the Food Commission’s Parents’ Jury, which investigated snacks at the checkout back in 2002 to 2005 [2], said: “I am disappointed but not surprised that parents need to campaign again on this issue. Supermarkets seem to have reneged on their promises made after the Food Commission’s investigation a decade ago, and returned to the same bad old marketing habits of selling snacks high in sugar, salt and fat at their checkouts.”

The Children’s Food Campaign’s new ‘Chuck Junk Off the Checkout’ campaign supports parents across the country to get involved with lobbying supermarkets to stop promoting unhealthy food to children. It is also lobbying the Advertising Standards Authority [3] to regulate all promotion of unhealthy food to children, not just in broadcast and print advertising.

For further information and interviews, please contact Malcolm Clark on 0203 5596 777, or malcolm@sustainweb.org

Download the Checkouts Checked Out report as a PDF here: www.sustainweb.org/publications/?id=212

Find out more about the campaign at: www.sustainweb.org/childrensfoodcampaign/chuck_junk/


Notes to editors

1. The Children’s Food Campaign undertook surveys of stores across London and found:

  • Asda, Morrisons and Iceland were the worst offenders, with over 80% of their checkouts featuring displays of unhealthy food or drink. Not one ‘traditional format’ supermarket surveyed had any healthy food options promoted at their checkouts.
  • In the smaller, ‘compact’ stores, commonly found on high streets, it was impossible to avoid junk at the checkout. All major retailers, including The Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, made customers queue past displays of unhealthy snacks to reach the tills.
  • Some of Britain’s most popular high-street brands have also copied this practice: HMV, New Look, Superdrug and WHSmith stores that were surveyed all featured sweets and chocolates in the queuing area before their tills, and did not offer healthy alternatives.

The Children’s Food Campaign also asked each of the retailers surveyed about their checkout marketing policy. Only one store – Sainsbury’s – confirmed they have a policy of not selling “impulse confectionery” at their main checkouts (but added that they did display “gifting confectionery or seasonal lines”), but that the policy was not applicable at their smaller convenience stores. Waitrose highlighted in its response recent promotions at its checkouts of a calorie-controlled range and seasonal confectionery. Asda, The Co-op, Iceland and Morrisons either did not respond or offered no comment. This is in contrast to the more positive statements they issued to the Food Commission in the 1990s and again in the early 2000s during the Chuck Snacks off the Checkout campaign which received widespread media attention, supported by over 1,200 parents as part of the Parents’ Jury.

In the survey, a few branches of Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S and Boots showed what is possible, either by offering healthier snacks at checkouts or displaying only non-food products instead. The ‘Chuck Junk Off the Checkout’ campaign commended the Waitrose store in Oxford Circus for its prominent and appealing display of fresh fruit in the queuing area before the tills and called for this to be the norm across all stores and all store formats.

2. Examples of earlier campaigns to Chuck Snacks off the Checkout are:

3. The ‘Chuck Junk Off the Checkout’ is lobbying for supermarkets and legislators to support parents in making healthier choices for their children, with demands as follows:

  • Supermarkets should remove junk food from the checkouts and queuing areas, in all formats of stores.
  • The Advertising Standards Authority should extend its remit to include in-store positioning of products and point-of-sale marketing.
  • The government should make removing junk from the checkouts a key part of its public health Responsibility Deal.

‘Chuck Junk Off the Checkout’ is encouraging parents to use the resources available on the Children's Food Campaign website – such as a "checkout wall of shame" and "checkout test scorecards" to hand in at tills – to help get their message across direct to the stores they shop in. See: www.sustainweb.org/childrensfoodcampaign/chuck_junk/


The Children’s Food Campaign aims to improve young people’s health and well-being through better food – and food teaching – in schools and by protecting children from junk food marketing. We are supported by over 150 national organisations and co-ordinated by Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. For more information see: www.childrensfood.org.uk

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Published 24 Apr 2012

Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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