Tesco said its decision comes after research found that nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of shoppers said removing confectionery would help them make healthier eating choices, while 67 per cent of parents said it would help them make better choices for their children.
The supermarket will trial offering a variety of healthier products at checkout, with the full change to be implemented by the end of the year. Morrisons, meanwhile, will look to offer consumers a choice, removing sweets, crisps and chocolate from one in five checkouts at its larger supermarkets, although not its M Local convenience stores, by July.
Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke says: “We all know how easy it is to be tempted by sugary snacks at the checkout, and we want to help our customers lead healthier lives. We’re doing this now because our customers have told us that removing sweets and chocolates from checkouts will help them make healthier choices.”
The government in October put getting supermarkets to get rid of treats at checkouts back on the agenda as part of their “Responsibility Deal” commitments, a voluntary code to help improve UK health. However, none of the major four supermarkets had yet signed up, although Lidl vowed to remove sweets, chocolate and crisps from its tills earlier this year.
Tesco has now gone the furthest of the big four supermarkets. Like rival Sainsbury’s, Tesco removed such products from checkouts at its large stores a number of years ago. This extends that strategy to smaller format Tesco Express and Tesco Metro stores.
Sainsbury’s says it will still offer confectionery at its convenience locations and has no plans to change its strategy. Asda says it believes in offering customers’ choice and encouraging healthy lifestyles and therefore offers customers a range of different products including batteries, magazines, toiletries and some treats.
The move follows Tesco’s commitment, announced last year, to help customers make healthier eating choices as part of its “Tesco and Society” promise to “use its scale for good”. Its other ambitions include reducing food waste and creating opportunities health.
It has already cut calories from a number of its own-label brands and changed recipes to reduce sugar, salt and fat content. Last year it also became the first supermarket to reveal food waste figures, showing that waste at its stores and distribution centres reached 28,500 tonnes in the first six months of 2013.
Speaking at an OysterCatchers panel on trust earlier this week (20 May), Tesco Bank chief executive Benny Higgins said it was important gestures like Tesco pulling sweets from tills channeled the “authenticity” of the business and weren’t marketing ploys.
He said: “Business at its best is when it is prepared to put the customer before the P&L [sheet] in the short run. It’s things like taking confectionery away from tills, introducing 24-hour stores and introducing a Clubcard points system that would take away 25 per cent of your margin. All these things are right for the consumer and if a business is consistently doing that then they will come back.”