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Checkouts still failing the junk test

25th January 2005

A survey of supermarkets has found Morrisons to be the worst chain for promoting junk food at the checkouts, knocking ASDA out of its long held first place in our league table. The supermarket failed to provide any snack-free checkouts for their customers.

Snack free checkout league table
  Supermarket % of snack free checkouts
1 Waitrose 96%
2 Tesco 79%
3 Sainsbury 44%
4 Co-op 28%
5 Iceland 25%
6 Somerfield 18%
7 Marks and Spencer 14%
8 Safeway 9%
9 ASDA 7%
10 Morrisons 0%

 

The surveys were carried out by supporters of the Parents Jury's Chuck Snacks off the Checkout! campaign. In total over 3,500 checkouts were surveyed in more than 300 stores over the last year. The campaign has also received hundreds of messages of support and calls for supermarkets to chuck snacks off the checkout.

Campaign supporters include Primary Care Trusts, Oral Health Promoters, nursery schools and the British Dental Association.

The campaign's objectives were also backed by the Food Standards Agency in 2004 who said they will encourage retailers to: 'remove snack products from checkouts and, where ever practicable, replace them with healthier options such as fruit.'

Following the campaign launch in autumn 2003, ASDA announced that it would trial checkouts with healthier snacks, or snack free checkouts, in four of its stores. In 2004 a trade magazine reported that 'Asda has yet to find a workable formula for merchandising fruit and healthy snacks at its checkouts... the biggest problem in the four-store trial was keeping the fresh fruit replenished.'

When the Food Commission contacted ASDA to check on the situation (as the need to replenish might indicate that the fresh fruit was very popular) we were told only that they had decided not to go ahead with apples or grapes for food safety reasons.

ASDA were still trialing displays of bananas but were worried about bruising, and were trialing cherry tomatoes, tangerines, bags of dried fruit and carrots.

Somerfield have also announced that in response to a Chuck Snacks campaign on the Isle of Wight that they too be 'trialing' snack free checkouts in their larger stores.

Sainsbury's have also recently initiated a policy 'to remove sweets from checkouts'.

Marks and Spencer are currently languishing 4th from bottom in the league table. They told the Food Commission that they 'ran a pilot offering fruit at the checkout in five stores and sales had been very disappointing in January 2004'.

Many campaign supporters cited Marks & Spencer as one of the worse offenders because many of the sweets and chocolates on sale at their checkouts use cartoon characters to grab the attention of young children.

The data from our checkout survey has also helped to inform recent research conducted by the Food Commission on behalf of the National Consumer Council. This research led to a final report Rating Retailers for Health: How supermarkets can affect your chances of a healthy diet , which scored the retailers against a new Health Responsibility Index.

Overall, more 'up-market' supermarkets gained a higher Health Responsibility Index rating while those with a greater proportion of lower-income shoppers scored less well.

The Co-op remained an exception - with a higher rating than its customer demographic profile would predict.

From these findings, the National Consumer Council suggests that retailers' practices may be contributing to or exacerbating the inequalities that exist between the diet and health of more affluent and less affluent consumers.

Useful resources

Supermarkets told to Chuck snacks off the checkout! Press release 22nd October, 2003

If you would like to support the campaign to stop promotion of junk food to children, please sign up to the Children's Food Bill. Visit http://www.childrensfoodbill.org.uk/

The Rating Retailers report is available free of charge at: www.ncc.org.uk/food/rating_retailers.pdf or call: 020 7730 3469.