Grocery retailers have been urged to focus more of their price promotions on healthy eating options to help fight obesity.
It comes after a survey by Which? found that more than half of recent promotions were for junk food, sweets and soft drinks.
However, supermarkets hit back at the results, claiming they failed to recognise the shift across the industry – particularly within the big four – to an every day low price model.
Many grocers have invested heavily in price in order to close the differential to the discounters, particularly in core lines such as fruit, vegetables, poultry and meat.
Mainstream supermarket operators are also carrying out fewer price promotions in order to focus on regular, stable prices.
The survey found that of the 77,165 price promotions carried out during the period, 53% involved less healthy foods that were high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar.
Which? found that 52% of confectionery lines were placed on special offer during the three months, compared with about a third of fruit and vegetables.
“It is time for supermarkets to shift the balance of products they include in price promotions and for all retailers to get rid of temptation at the till by taking sweets off the checkout”
Alex Neill, Which?
According to the consumer group’s study, the “less healthy” products that were promoted most regularly across the six grocers were frozen chips and potatoes, with 78% of all lines in this category placed on promotion at some point between April and June.
In the pizza category, 70% of all products were placed on price promotion during the period, while the same proportion of soft drink SKUs were also on offer.
The least promoted goods were within the meat, fish and seafood and dried fruit categories, with just 32% of goods from each sector receiving a price promotion.
It comes after a separate survey by Which? found that 29% of people said they struggled to eat healthy because they thought healthier food was more expensive.
Which? director of campaigns Alex Neill has called on grocery retailers to include a greater proportion of healthy options in their price promotions and take sweets away from checkouts.
He said: “Everybody has to play their part in the fight against obesity and people want supermarkets to offer more promotions on healthier foods – and yet our research found the opposite.
“It is time for supermarkets to shift the balance of products they include in price promotions and for all retailers to get rid of temptation at the till by taking sweets off the checkout.”
Sainsbury’s is among the retailers that have shifted towards every day low prices and has completely scrapped multi-buy promotions in a bid to focus on regular, lower prices.
“We have made hundreds of fresh and healthy products affordable all of the time and our fresh produce sales are growing as a result”
Paul Mills-Hicks, Sainsbury’s
The supermarket giant’s food commercial director Paul Mills-Hicks said: “Since 2014, we’ve been working hard to remove promotions and invest money in regular lower prices.
“In doing so, we have made hundreds of fresh and healthy products affordable all of the time and our fresh produce sales are growing as a result.
“We have also taken a big step by calling on the industry to remove multibuys, which we believe will lead to healthier diets and reduce household waste.”
Andrew Opie, the director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), threw his weight behind the grocers. He said: “Supermarkets offer great value in all the products they sell and it has never been easier or more affordable to choose a balanced diet.”