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Who is the most health-concious supermarket?

There are twice as many supermarket price promotions for fatty and sugary foods as there are for healthier options of fruit and vegetables, according to the National Consumer Council (NCC) who have also published a new league table revealing the main offenders.

The NCC looked at over 2,000 supermarket price promotions, such as 'buy one, get one free' and 'multi-buy' offers and found the proportion of promotions for fruit and vegetables ranging from just at 7% in Somerfield to a healthier 27% in Marks & Spencer. No supermarket hit the NCC's target of 33% — the percentage that fruit and vegetables should make up in a balanced diet.

However, said the NCC, supermarkets have made strides in other ways, such as cutting salt, better labelling and taking sweets off the checkout. Overall the Co-Op came out top.

NCC Chief Executive, Ed Mayo, said, 'There is a sea change underway that is good news for consumers as supermarkets start to compete on health. We congratulate the Co-op, the top performer. The fact that the Co-op has an above-average share of budget-conscious shoppers shows that this is not just for the better off. But we're dismayed that the biggest supermarket — Tesco — is a laggard on health.'

The Co-op comes in first place in the second year of NCC's Health Responsibility Index. It was top scorer for reducing salt content — with their sausages having less salt than the NCC target, its excellent nutrition labelling and the best information from the customer helpline. It is the only retailer to have an explicit policy for in-store price promotions — that 25-30% of its promotions are for healthier foods.

Marks & Spencer and Waitrose were equal second, with Sainsbury's down to fourth place from last year's second; Asda improved their rating from seventh to fifth with Tesco trailing at sixth; Iceland (not rated in 2004) and Somerfield taking equal seventh place, with Morrisons again placed ninth.

The four leading retailers, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons account for three-quarters of our grocery bill. Of these, Asda is the best improver, moving up two places in 2005. The store has the least salty 'economy' foods — such as sausages, bread and pizza. Asda also boosted its score with good customer information and advice.

Tesco — with over 30%t of the market — is, said the NCC 'not competitive on health'; its in-store promotions are weighted towards unhealthy foods — with only 14% for fruit and vegetables compared to 35% for fatty and sugary foods, and its helpline was the least helpful of all.

The NCC believe that the Food Standards Agency salt reduction strategy has led to improvements and is calling on supermarkets to commit to working with the FSA to develop targets for fat, saturated fat and sugar in processed foods.

The Supermarket Health Responsibility league

  • 1. Co-op
  • 2. Marks and Spencer / Waitrose
  • 4. Sainsbury's
  • 5. Asda
  • 6. Tesco
  • 7. Iceland / Somerfield
  • 9. Morrison's

What is the Health Responsibility Index

The NCC Health Responsibility Index score was calculated by giving equal weighting to each of four key areas investigated and averaging the scores:

  1. nutritional value of ten everyday, own-label processed foods including sausages, bread, yoghurt and pizza. The focus was on salt levels in 'standard' products and, where available, data was collected on 'economy' and 'healthier' foods;
  2. clear labelling or a recipe for confusion — how well nutrition information is provided and whether it is interpreted, such as giving high, medium or low measures of fat, sugar or salt, or other signposting;
  3.  in-store promotions of healthy versus less healthy foods — healthy foods (fresh, frozen or canned fruit and vegetables) as a proportion of in-store price promotions, such as multi-buy or buy one, get one free offers. The benchmark was 33% — the percentage that it is recommended fruit and vegetables should comprise in a balanced diet; whether stores had sweets or other less healthy snacks at the checkout;
  4. in-store and telephone helpline information/advice for customers on healthy eating.

Page created on November 28th, 2005

Page updated on December 1st, 2009