- Wide availability of unhealthy food and drink in more than 1 in 4 (29%) non- food retail environments such as clothing and cosmetics stores with confectionary and sugary drinks dominating
- Seven out of ten consumers (70%) reported seeing food or drink in non-food retail stores, with 42% making a purchase while shopping in these stores in the previous month
- Two of every three (66%) products purchased are classified as less healthy e.g. sweets and chocolate, savoury snacks, sugary drinks and energy drinks
With evidence suggesting availability and product placement drives consumer spending, new research conducted by public health charities Food Active and the UK Health Forum has revealed the ready availability of sweets, chocolate, sugary drinks and biscuits across non-food retail outlets, with two fifths (41%) of retailers also offering product promotions.
Of all stores visited, nearly a third sold food and drinks within store, with pharmaceutical, medical and cosmetic stores, newsagents and stationery and gift stores being the three most common. Commissioned by Public Health England (PHE), the research shows the most common category of food and drinks sold in these stores were sweets and chocolate confectionery, contributing to two fifths of all food and drink options recorded (40.8%). This was followed by sugary drinks (10.1%) and biscuits (9.6%).
With concerns that increased availability of unhealthy products can lead to a greater likelihood of people becoming overweight or obese, these food and drink categories are included in PHE’s sugar reduction programme which form part of the government’s commitment to tackling childhood obesity.
Just under 1 in 3 (30%) of food and drink options were subject to price promotions, with over one third (34%) for sweets and chocolate confectionery. Furthermore, over two fifths (42%) of all food and drink options were located at the checkout – half (51%) of which were sweets and confectionery.
Building on this snapshot of non-food retail environments, a Food Active online survey of 1,682 people in England looked at understanding consumer experiences of the availability and promotion of food and drinks in non-food retail environments.
The consumer results reinforced earlier findings:
- Seven out of 10 people (70%) who had visited a non-food store in the last month reported having seen a food or drink item on sale, and 42% reported purchasing food or drink while shopping in these stores in the last month.
- Two thirds (66%) of products purchased by consumers were classified as unhealthy, including sweets and chocolate, savoury snacks, sugary drinks and energy drinks.
- Two fifths (42%) reported purchasing products due to a special offer or promotion.
- Consumers agreed that further restrictions should be put in place in clothing and footwear stores (40%), audio and visual entertainment stores (41%), and in toy and games stores (45%).
- Female consumers, those on lower incomes and those aged 55+ were more likely to support further restrictions.
The report comes as the Department of Health and Social Care are currently consulting on restricting promotions of less healthy food and drink by price and place across all types of retail environments as part of the Childhood Obesity Plan Chapter 2 to reduce the availability, accessibility and marketing of less healthy food and drink particularly for children and young people.
Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist, Public Health England said:
“With food and drink increasingly consumed on the go, all retailers have a responsibility to avoid putting greater temptation front and centre, through unhealthy food offerings when people shop for clothing, books and toys. Supermarket retailers have committed to no longer target children from the queue to check out – and it makes sense for there to be a level playing field so that good action by some is not undermined.”
Alison Giles, Interim Chief Executive of the UK Health Forum said:
“This research clearly highlights that our food environments are larger than just home, school and traditional food retailer settings. We know that availability and promotion of unhealthy food and drink items influence people’s purchasing and consumption patterns, particularly children and young people. Addressing the availability of unhealthy food items in non-food retail outlets must be part of any comprehensive package of policy measures. Having this research available is well timed to contribute to the Government’s current consultation on restricting promotions of less healthy food and drink.”
Alex Holt, Food and Nutrition Lead for Food Active said:
“We are concerned at the increasing availability and promotion of unhealthy food and drink items in shopping environments such as clothing and cosmetics stores, newsagents and department stores. Whilst we accept the financial pressure on non-food retail environments to diversify away from their ‘core offer’, the overwhelming availability and promotion of less healthy options is alarming as these are the items that contribute the most to children’s excess sugar and calorie consumption. Publication of this research is particularly timely as it will enhance the evidence base for organisations responding to the current consultation on restricting promotions of less healthy food and drink by price and place across retail environments.”
You can read the full reports here.