The National Consumer Council has lambasted UK supermarkets for running too many promotions for fatty or sugary foods. It says an investigation in to the eight major chains shows over half of promotions were for unhealthy foods – double the level seen in 2006.
The consumer body says the increase shows how far supermarkets would go to attract customers during the credit crunch.
But the British Retail Consortium has hit back, labelling the survey as “unrepresentative”.
The survey, which was carried out in March, included Asda, The Co-operative, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield, Tesco and Waitrose stores in Sheffield. It rated each on promotions, the salt content of own-brand foods, nutrition labelling, the prevalence of sweets at checkouts and the healthy eating advice and information available at each.
It found that the number of promotions, such as two-for-one offers, had risen to 4,300, up 17% from its report two years ago. However, only 12% of promotions were for fruit and vegetables, below the 33% recommended by the NCC.
Sainsbury’s topped the survey, followed by the Co-op and Waitrose, Morrisons was the worst offender, with 63% of its promotions featuring foods high in fat, salt or sugar, up from 39% in 2006.
A spokesman for Morrisons says: “We reject the findings of this report. It’s six months out of date, contains a number of inaccuracies and is a largely subjective assessment which ignores the obvious focus we place on fresh food in all our stores.”
The BRC says that the survey was taken in March, when much of the promotional activity would have centred on Easter. It adds that the NCC would have found a “different” picture over the summer.
Lucy Yates, who compiled the NCC report, says: “The volume of in-house promotions for fatty and sugary foods the supermarkets are all offering is staggering. We expected to see evidence of big improvements since our last investigation, but we’ve been sadly disappointed.”