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?