Last week, Waitrose announced that it will be deploying healthy eating specialists onto shop floors to steer customers away from junk food. Is this a move all supermarkets should be adopting?
Hot on the heels of chef Jamie Oliver launching his #AdEnough campaign to take on junk food marketing aimed at kids, Waitrose has also entered the war on unhealthy products, by installing so-called ‘health food police’ to patrol aisles in dozens of its stores.
The supermarket chain is set to send 100 of its shop assistants for training by nutritionists, with the first 11 ‘nutrition nannies’, as one newspaper put it, patrolling stores by the end of May, and the remaining 89 by the end of the year.
Once trained, they will advise and direct customers towards healthier choices on the shop floor.
They will also be qualified to suggest recipes to shoppers, and advise them on how to read food labels and where they can find reliable sources of nutrition information.
A Waitrose spokesman said: ‘Many shoppers have the best intentions to be healthier but busy lives get in the way. We know that small steps, top tips and nuggets of good advice can help them get started and importantly stay on track.’
Food for thought
So does this now mean a trip to Waitrose will see you having ready meals, pizzas and tubs of ice cream snatched out of your trolleys or an unwanted lecture on junk food at the chillers? Thankfully, no. The service will only be available to those who ask, with healthy eating specialists easily identifiable by their aprons and fleeces.
Now, I consider myself pretty clued-up on the nutritional value of food. I know I need to eat a balanced diet, watch my fat intake, and my salt and sugar, too, eat my five a day, stay within the recommended 14 units of alcohol per week and keep to roughly 2,000 calories per day.
But I’m also fully aware that while I couldn’t live permanently on bags of crisps, pork pies, Scotch eggs and Pizza Express Sloppy Guiseppes, the odd indulgence isn’t going to do me a great deal of harm.
Knowing myself, I very much doubt I’d ever ask for assistance from nutritionists. However, I can see the value in them, especially given that the latest figures show that two-thirds of the population are overweight or obese, with a quarter clinically obese, making the UK one of the worst nations in Europe for obesity.
I can also see that you might need a healthy eating specialist if you started a new diet and didn’t know all the ins and the outs. Say, for example, if you decided to go vegetarian or vegan and wanted to know what plant-based foods could replace the nutrients found in meat.
Fortunately, many foods have traffic light labelling on them now – but more help in making sense of labels and working out what’s healthier or not sounds like it could be a good thing.
Do you think all supermarkets should be following Waitrose’s lead, training up staff to advise customers on healthy eating? Or is this taking the promotion of healthy eating a step too far?