Online grocery shopping has increased during the recent Covid-19 pandemic and supermarkets are bombarding shoppers with promotions as they shop online. Our report, released today, found that during a single shopping event shoppers are exposed to an average of 510 promotions. Of those 510, 107 are for unhealthy food and drink. However, this varies substantially between supermarkets from 188 during a Morrisons’ shop to 35 during an Iceland shop.
Obesity Action Scotland are therefore calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that action to tackle the incessant promotion of unhealthy foods during online and in-store shopping trips is prioritized immediately following the election.
This survey found that there are varying profiles of promotions between the supermarkets. This indicates that, to be effective, any measures to tackle the promotion of unhealthy foods needs to cover as many types of promotion as possible from temporary price reductions to buy one get one free to placement at checkout. There is also a clear seasonal increase of discretionary product promotions around Christmas, so to be truly effective we need to ensure the rules apply all year round.
Our new survey provides the first Scotland-based analysis of food and drink promotions in an online retail environment. Conducted at two time points in 2020, the survey captured online grocery retail environment just before the first COVID-19 lockdown and then was repeated at the end of the year. The survey included 6 online supermarkets (all that delivered shopping in mainland Scotland in March 2020) and used two shopping lists to collect data on food and drink promotions based on 18 separate shopping events.
The key findings were:
On publishing the new survey Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead of Obesity Action Scotland said: “Our new survey reveals that unhealthy food and drink and alcohol are actively promoted in online retail just like they are in-store. While Scottish Government’s plans to introduce restrictions to HFSS food and drink promotions were put on hold due to outbreak of the pandemic, the promotions have not been put on hold and keep influencing shoppers both online and in-store. The introduction of these restrictions is urgent if we want to ensure the healthy choice is the easiest choice for all consumers to improve their diet and their health.
It will be important that regulation is bold and wide ranging to take account of the varying types of promotion employed by different supermarkets. We recognize that supermarkets have helped ensure food supplies during a very difficult year but they must also ensure they take responsibility and improve their service to support and enable our good health.”
Read the full report, here.