What can be more healthful than expanding the footprints of fresh produce sections in supermarkets? Removing any and all unhealthy products in store aisles that are high in fat, sugar and salt, or HFSS.
That has been a mission for Tesco since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially as individuals and families have struggled with affordability andthe inability to choose vitamin-rich foods essential in their diets.
“The UK has record levels of obesity which is having a huge impact on the NHS and our wider economy, as well as jeopardising the long-term health and prospects of the next generation,” says Tesco Chief Commercial Officer, Ashwin Prasad.
In the past year – aside from encouraging its patrons to select more healthy foods through its Better Basket zones – Tesco has removed more than 70 billion calories from its own-brand lines, including 320 tonnes of sugars from its cereals.
Tesco also set a target of 65% healthy food sales by 2025. It has seen its no-sugar and low-sugar drink sales dip by 11% year over year while choices of more healthy snacks has increased by more than 10%.
“At Tesco we have seen what’s possible when we create the conditions and incentives to help people to fill their baskets with products that are healthier and more sustainable, but still affordable,” Prasad says. “I’m encouraged by the progress so far and look forward to even greater collaboration with our suppliers and partners as we work towards our 2025 goal.”
Of course, one of the more massive initiatives is getting customers to make better selections in store – especially fruits and vegetables, where less than one-third of all adults in the UK are achieving the benchmark five per day. Those Better zones help, but more needs to be done on the ground floor to change perception.
“By any credible measure, rates of ill health driven by poor diets are increasing,” says Elaine Hindal, CEO of British Nutrition Federation, which is a Tesco partner. “Despite best intentions, reversing this unacceptable reality cannot be delivered solely through the actions of well-meaning individuals. The pace and scale of the changes required to our food environment call for close collaboration and shared responsibility and it is only by working together that we can balance the needs of a contemporary food system, with better access to a healthy and sustainable diet for all.”
Although not empowering sea change, Tesco is seeing some results from its efforts. More than a half million customers’ baskets have become healthier since 2021, and more than three million people purchased at least 10% more healthy products in 2022 compared to 2021, according to Tesco data. Tesco believes that its marketing efforts are helping – but in a reverse way. It has restricted multibuy deals on those HFSS items, which has led to individuals making more healthy choices.