“Would you like to make it large?” Say ‘No!’ to upsizing

13 March 2019

Have you been asked “Would you like a pastry with that?” when getting a morning coffee? Or “Would you like to make it large?” when buying popcorn before a movie?

Last week saw the launch of Food Standards Scotland’s ‘#NoToUpsizing’ marketing campaign, encouraging Scots to be aware of the extra calories we may consume by consistently saying ‘yes’ to extra food offered when eating outside the home. While public health campaigns like this are important to raise awareness, it could be even more effective if the practice of upselling and upsizing of unhealthy foods was to cease.

What is ‘upsizing’?

‘Upsizing’ (or upselling) is a marketing technique used in places like supermarkets, cafes, restaurants and cinemas to increase sales by offering add-ons such as side dishes, or by ‘making it a large’. Often, accepting these offers can lead us to purchase and consume far more calories (kcal) than we originally intended, without realising.

Why is it a problem?

As a nation, we love to eat out. It is estimated that in Scotland we visit out of home establishments 9.6 million times a year, with up to 25% of the total calories we consume coming from eating outside of the home[1]. The foods that we eat when we are out are often higher in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS), such as sugary drinks, cakes, fries and burgers. Children tend to consume more of these foods when eating out than adults[2].

How many extra calories do we consume by saying yes?

Food Standards Scotland estimate that choosing to upsize your regular cheeseburger to a regular cheeseburger meal with fries, onion rings and a fizzy drink once a week can increase your weekly intake by 688kcal, a potential weight gain of around 4.6lbs a year. A side of garlic bread adds an extra 380kcal, saying yes to cream and marshmallows on your hot chocolate adds an extra 158kcal and upsizing from a small to large sweet popcorn at the cinema can add an extra 689kcal to your intake![3]

Public opinion

In their 2018 consumer tracking survey, Food Standards Scotland found that 65% of people believe upsizing should not be encouraged[4], increasing to 80% in those aged 65 and over. When questioned if they are ‘asked to upsize food and drinks too frequently’, there was a clear divide between age groups; 42% of 16-34s and 15% of over 65s agreed. Younger adults also found it more difficult to say no to upsizing than older adults; 38% vs 10% respectively.

This reflects a 2017 UK-wide poll by the Royal Society for Public Health, that found younger adults (18-24) are most likely to experience upselling, with 90% saying they experience it at least once per week (compared to 78% of all adults)[5].

Stopping upsizing

The Scottish Government have consulted on their plans to introduce mandatory restrictions to the promotion of unhealthy food groups (i.e. confectionery or savoury snacks). Within this they are looking to restrict upselling of such products. We support such a measure and you can read our response to this consultation here. Stopping the practice of upselling would take the pressure off of those who feel they can’t say no to a bargain.

Get involved

You can keep up to date with the campaign by following the Twitter hashtag #NoToUpsizing, or by visiting the Food Standards Scotland website, where you can find calorie information for a range of commonly upsized foods purchased outside the home. And next time you are asked whether you’d like to upsize, know that this marketing technique is not designed for your benefit.



[1] Public Health England (2017). Sugar Reduction: Achieving the 20%. A technical report outlining progress to date, guidelines for industry, 2015 baseline levels in key foods and next steps. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sugar-reductionachieving-the-20 Accessed 8 March 2019

[2] Food Standards Scotland (2018). Situation Report: The Scottish Diet: It needs to change. 2018 update. https://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/publications-and-research/publications/the-scottish-diet-it-needs-to-change-2018-update Accessed 8 March 2019

[3] Food Standards Scotland (2019) It’s time to say No to Upsizing Campaign webpage at www.foodstandards.gov.scot/consumers/healthy-eating/its-time-to-say-notoupsizing

[4] Food Standards Scotland (2018). Food in Scotland Consumer Tracking Survey. Wave 6. Summary Report. https://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/publications-and-research/publications/food-in-scotland-consumer-tracking-survey-wave-6 Accessed 11 March 2019

[5] Royal Society for Public Health (2017). Size Matters. The impact of upselling on weight gain. https://www.rsph.org.uk/our-work/policy/obesity/size-matters.html Accessed 11 March 2019