I pulled out the latest issue of Green Futures for a bit of light relief. It instantly lifted my mood as it reminded me just… how exciting sustainability issues can be.
Two leading retailers are removing sugary treats from all their checkout aisles, in an attempt to tackle childhood obesity and parent pestering. The extention of Tesco’s existing confectionary ban in large stores to 1,800 smaller Metro and Express outlets follows Lidl’s announcement that it has removed chocolates and other sweets from the checkout aisles of its 600 UK stores, replacing them with dried and fresh fruit, oatcakes, fruit juice, nuts and seeds.
“We congratulate Lidl for making this move and leading the way on removing unhealthy snacks from checkouts”, says Malcolm Clark, Coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, an anti-junkfood organisation. “The onus is now on other supermarkets and retailers to follow suit, and we and the British Dietetic Association will keep up the pressure for them to do so.”
Sainsbury’s also has a policy of no sweets or chocolate at the checkout, but this does not extend to its smaller convenience stores. Fiona Dowson, an expert in sustainable nutrition at Forum for the Future and a mother of two, hopes that by replacing confectionary at the checkout with healthier choices, Lidl will help to drive sales of healthy foods. “It would be great to see more retailers doing the same”, she says. “It rewards brands that make healthier food products with opportunities to boost sales, and might even encourage a new wave of 'check-out-friendly' healthier snacks. And personally, I'd find shopping trips with two young children much less stressful.”
Lidl’s move follows on from the ten-week Healthy Checkouts initiative it conducted at several of its stores last year. Junkfood at one checkout per store was replaced with the non-treats. The encouraging results – the non-treats sold 20% more than the junkfood – helped to make the case for a widescale roll-out of the initiative.
The retailer’s research also showed that 68% of parents were sometimes pestered for junkfood by their children while at the checkout, and that one in six were pestered on every occasion. Around 15% of parents said they spent £20-£40 a month on sweets brought from the checkout.
Although Lidl’s initiative is one of the biggest anti-junkfood efforts ever undertaken, it will only affect UK stores. In Germany, home of the retail chain, one child nutrition expert has complained that junkfood “still cries ‘buy me’ at the ‘whining zone’, right at the eye level of children”.
Elsewhere in the world, Mexico has tried to discourage the purchase of sugary drinks through prohibitive taxes. A similar effort in New York State has not yet succeeded, but Michelle Obama has spearheaded a high-profile healthy eating campaign in the US, calling for a ban on the sale of junkfood in schools.
Photo credit: Lidl