Is it fair to upsell unhealthy food and drink at the tills? Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, joins us to call for a rethink on upselling…
How many of you have succumbed to the temptation of a larger coffee or supersize takeaway when suggested by the salesperson? I suspect that most of us have at one time or another, but what we don’t think about is how this ‘upselling’ might contribute to weight gain and ultimately our obesity crisis.
Upselling food and drink
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Slimming World recently produced a report entitled ‘Size matters: the impact of upselling on weight gain’. Our report had significant media response because, for the first time, we showed the sheer scale of this sales tactic.
We found that more than three-quarters (78%) of the public experience upselling at least once in a typical week – one in three of us buy that larger coffee, upgrade to a bigger meal in a fast-food restaurant or buy chocolate at the till in a petrol station.
So why should we be concerned about this commonplace activity?
We’ve calculated that the average person who has been upsold will consume more than 17,000 extra calories a year, this is the equivalent of around five extra pounds in weight gain.
More worrying, is that young people aged 18-24 are most likely to experience upselling, consuming an extra 750 calories per week with the accumulated weight gain of 11lbs in a year.
This is a significant contributor to our obesity problem. Currently, two-thirds of the UK population is overweight or obese and obesity-related illness is predicted to cost the NHS £10bn by 2050. This is hugely costly for the individual, families and society.
This practice occurs at the point of sale and is not at the customer’s request. Many people will point to individual responsibility and having the willpower to just say ‘no’, but why can’t retailers upsell us a salad or an apple?
Right now, we are upsold food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt, why not offer ‘deals’ on healthy alternatives? At the moment, the upsell results in around 17% more money, but we receive 55% more calories.
In my view, businesses need to take responsibility for this, but making consumers more aware of this apparent ‘value for money’ could make more of us pause next time we’re upsold.
We’re recommending that they should not train staff to sell unhealthy food, only upsell healthy food and drink, provide clear calorie information and not link staff pay to selling unhealthy food.
Businesses need to adhere to healthy principles to improve the public’s health, both individuals and business have their part to play in stemming the tide of weight gain and its negative effect on health and the health service.
This is a guest contribution by Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health. All views expressed here are Shirley’s own and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.
When was the last time you were upsold something? What would you rather you were upsold when buying an item of food or drink?