Junk food at supermarket checkouts is worsening the obesity crisis

junk foodParents – have you ever been stood in a supermarket shopping queue that seems to never decrease in size, this whilst simultaneously being nagged endlessly by your children for chocolate and/or sweets which are convenient placed right at the end of each and every checkout. If so, you are not alone, and this is the dilemma faced by millions of parents around Britain who are being harassed by their children into buying the unhealthy junk food stacked up at the checkouts.

In fact, a new survey has found that a staggering 90% of shoppers believe this cunning sales tactic is partly contributing to obesity and surely now the Government will be forced to push through legislation aimed at stopping this practice, and easing the spiralling obesity crisis.

On Monday a campaign was launched called ‘Junk Free Checkouts’ which does exactly what it says on the tin – aims to make supermarket checkouts free of junk and help to put an end to the ‘pester power’ of children who almost bully their parents into buying them unhealthy and high sugary treats that are placed near the tills.

The initiative was announced by the British Dietetic Association and the Children’s Food Campaign, following the results of a nationwide survey in which 78% of people complained that junk food at supermarket checkouts is ‘annoying’. Moreover, 83% of respondents said they had been nagged by their children for junk food at the checkouts and 75% have relented and bought junk for their children due to incessant pestering.

There was almost 2,000 people who completed the Chuck the Junk Survey, mainly comprising of women, of which two thirds had children.

Supermarkets have been pressured by health campaigners for a number of years to stop selling unhealthy junk food at their tills as they say it is blatantly targeted at easily swayed children and the promotional offers do not help matters on what has been described as the ‘guilt lanes’.

Speaking on behalf of the British Dietetic Association, obesity specialist Linda Hindle commented: “Retailers are unwilling to stop pushing unhealthy food at the checkout and queuing areas. It may be lucrative for them but, as our survey found, it is deeply unpopular with customers and nudges purchasing behaviour in the wrong direction. If retailers can’t act on their own, then we hope to see robust action from the Government to tackle this problem.”

The issue was raised in Government back in July when health minister Anna Soubry blasted supermarkets for the cynical store layouts which make it particularly difficult for parents with young children. However, she then ruled out any clampdown on the sweet and chocolate guilt lanes in shops and supermarkets, merely days after making a vow to get rid of them.

Some of the worst offenders in this regard have found to be Asda, Morrisons and Tesco, all stocking an alarming amount of junk food at their tills.

Campaigners have hit out at Supermarkets for seemingly not acting on promises to improve their methods in selling confectionery in the wake of a 2003 investigation by the independent watchdog the Food Commission.

There are those who say that stocking checkout aisles with chocolate and sweets is a calculating ploy by the supermarkets to tempt shoppers into a sugar rush after a long, laborious trek around the supermarket.

Professor of marketing at EM-Lyon Business School, Agnes Nairn, said that shoppers could change their buying habits by the point of reaching the checkout. “Consumers are more likely to go for something unhealthy when they are tired because they aren’t able to make the rational decision they would make otherwise,” she said. “Although they all know that a chocolate egg is not as good for them as fruit salad, if you have to do that in a hurry, they make the wrong choice.”

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