More supermarket promotions on less healthy food – Scotland

As new research finds supermarkets have more promotions on less healthy food and drink, Which? says retailers must play their part in the fight against obesity in Scotland.

Which? analysed data collected by mySupermarket on the number of promotions across the major supermarkets between April and June this year. Of the 77,165 promotions where nutritional data was available for the product, we found that over half (53%) of promotions were on less healthy foods compared to healthier products (47%).

When comparing different food groups, we found that more than half (52%) of confectionery was on offer compared to only around a third of fresh fruit and vegetables (30% and 34% respectively). Seven in ten (69%) soft drinks that would fall under the higher sugar band category (more than 8% sugar) of the Government’s proposed sugar tax were also on promotion.

In a separate survey, Which? found three in ten Scots (28%) say they find it difficult to eat healthily as they think healthier food is more expensive than less healthy food. This was one of the top two reasons given by those surveyed for not eating more healthily.

More than half (53%) said that supermarkets should include more healthier choices in promotions to make it easier for people to choose healthier food. This was the top action Scots wanted from supermarkets, followed by making healthier options cheaper (48%) and making foods with less fat, sugar and salt (46%).

Which? is calling for retailers in Scotland to include more healthier options in their price promotions. This also needs to be a key element of the Scottish Government’s forthcoming refresh of their strategy to tackle obesity and diet-related disease. Food Standards Scotland, which advises Scottish Ministers on actions to improve diet and nutrition, has also called for action in this area.

Alex Neill, Which? Director of Campaigns and Policy, said:

“Our latest research in Scotland shows that people would like to eat more healthily but it’s the less healthy options that are more likely to be included within supermarket price promotions.

“It’s time for all retailers to take more responsibility for the types of food they include in their price promotions as well as to live up to their promises to take sweets off the checkout.”


  1. Data and offers – MySupermarket provided Which? with data on the balance of healthier and less healthy promotions on price promotions available in ASDA, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose between 1st April and 30th June 2016. My Supermarket collected data on all products on sale on online sites, including promotions. Of the 77,165 promotions where nutritional data was available for the product, we found that over half (53%) of promotions were on less healthy foods compared to healthier products (47%).
  2. Healthier vs unhealthy foods – Calculation of ‘healthier’ and ‘less healthy’ is based on the traffic light nutrition labelling scheme. Fresh, unprocessed fruit and vegetables were automatically categorised into the healthier category. Otherwise, the rule for determining healthier and less healthy products was as follows: If any of the four nutrients included in the traffic light label (fat, saturates, sugars and salt) has a red light then the product will fall into the less-healthy category with one exception: products that only score one red for fat – if it scored a green for saturated fat, then it was considered healthier.  Products without full information on the four traffic lights nutrients were excluded from the research. This varied between supermarkets.
  3. Which? survey – Research Now, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 1,070 Scottish adults online between 20th May and 26th May 2016.


Press Release