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Choccies at the checkouts – have you noticed a change?

A pile of brightly coloured sweets

For a long time, tempting treats like sweets and chocolate bars adorned most supermarket checkouts. The major supermarkets shared their checkout policies with us last year – have you spotted any changes?

Last April, we wrote about the worst offenders for keeping tempting treats next to the tills. At the time, some major supermarkets were making life difficult for customers trying to resist the siren call of sugary, fatty snacks by making them very hard to avoid.

Chocolate, sweets and soft drinks were often displayed at just the right level for children to spot them. Parents can usually avoid the confectionery aisle easily enough, but using a checkout is pretty much mandatory. Easily visible sweets + kids bored from shopping = maximum pester power!

Personally, I’m an impulse chocolate buyer and would appreciate a bit more help to avoid temptation. Although if I’m really honest with myself, when I decide I want chocolate cookies, I’ll walk over hot coals to get to them. When I’m babysitting my five-year-old nephew I make sure to stock my fridge well in advance. The very idea of taking him past a checkout display crammed with sweets and crisps is just too much to contemplate.

A taste for change at the checkouts

We published our ‘Taste for Change’ report last year, revealing supermarkets’ and manufacturers’ progress towards the actions we think are needed to make it easier to eat healthily. For the report, we asked the major food retailers to share their policies on displaying unhealthy foods at the checkout.

These policies are a mixed basket. The Co-operative has banned displays of high fat, sugar or salt products from checkouts and kiosks. Sainsbury’s has a policy of no sweets or chocolate next to checkouts in its supermarkets, but not in smaller convenience stores.

Like Sainsbury’s, Tesco has a policy not to place confectionery next to checkouts, with the exception of Tesco Express stores. Asda restricts sweet displays to a third of its tills. Iceland allows a confectionery stand at only one checkout in each of its stores.

Marks & Spencer’s policy is to remove children’s sweets and confectionery with characters or designs likely to appeal to children from some checkouts with conveyor belts. Morrisons tries not to display confectionery that appeals to children at checkouts, and is in the process of reviewing its policy.

The top retailers from our supermarkets survey, Waitrose and Aldi, currently have no policy at all on confectionery at checkouts.

Trying out a healthy till

At the time our report was published, Lidl didn’t have a clear policy, but told us it was about to trial one ‘healthy till’ in each store. These checkout displays offer fruit snack packs and bottles of juice. Lidl has reported that the trial has been a success – more healthy checkouts are being rolled out.

We want to see an end to sweets at checkouts. Instead, this prime retail space should be used to help us choose healthier products. The government can help with this goal by ensuring all retailers commit to a pledge under its Responsibility Deal.

Are there any sweets and chocolates next to the checkout at your usual supermarket? Have you noticed any improvements during the last year or so?


I’m surprised to read that Marks and Spencer have a policy of removing sweets from checkouts and Waitrose don’t.

On a recent visit to Marks and Spencer I found it quite difficult to reach the checkout because of the number of stands that were packed with sweets and chocolate – many of them clearly aimed at children (unless adults make a habit of buying chocolate with pink pigs and Fireman Sam on the front). It wasn’t easy to get myself past the massed confectionery without being tempted to pick something up, so I don’t know how parents with small children cope. On the other hand when I go into Waitrose they never seem to have sweets on display near the checkout.

I do think supermarkets should be responsible about how they display and market sweets and other unhealthy food, but we all have a choice about what we buy and as adults we can’t really blame others for our own poor choices.

Jemma says:
18 July 2013

I have noticed this, but didn’t realise it was the result of a conscious effort on the supermarket’s behalf! Like you, my main chocolate buying happens on impulse, when it’s right in front of me, so I think it’s a great idea to take it away from tills. If I’ve used enough resolve to make it to the checkout with no chocolate, I disagree with supermarkets helping you fall at the last hurdle!

And actually, I think I’ve been buying less chocolate as a result of this. My local is a Waitrose and an Asda. Waitrose doesn’t store products on individual tills anyway so not really a problem, but Asda has definitely improved.

Call me an old cynic, but I’d bet money that the express stores aren’t really designed for the mum with sugar hungry kids and therefore they don’t tend to sell much confectionery. They’ve probably just discovered something more profitable to put there instead and are hyping it up with their usual marketing spin.

Tesco may have already stopped putting sweets by tills in the larger stores ( apparently some 20 years ago) but it hasn’t stopped them putting them on the end of isles facing the tills. (maybe that’s why they never have enough checkouts manned so the queues built up, right passed them) I’ve yet to see sweets at the other end of those isles. Its all smoke and mirrors to help part you from your money.

If a supermarket really wants to impress me they’ll ban BOGOFs and other multi-buys on perishables (and large items) and just reduce the price of a single item, so a BOGOF simply becomes 50% off, Buy 2 get 1 free becomes 33% off etc

Concerned Father says:
21 March 2015

I live in Stockport and Asda here is guilty on EVERY checkout of putting sweets, but not just on the face, on the side too, so my 2 year old in a trolley can reach them. Every time I go to the checkout my son throws a tantrum because I won’t let him have any of the sweets. I spoke to a manager with my son in tears and he basically said “We won’t be removing them” so I have decided not to shop there anymore. Tesco does not do this and the attitude of staff there is alot more customer focused.

Farewell Asda, you have lost my business until you correct this cruel act of enticement and encouragement of obesity and unhealthy living.

irene stratton says:
14 June 2015

M&S now asking at checkouts if one wants to buy sweets as well. Very cross about this as I work in diabetes.