RSPH and Slimming World call for supermarkets to do more to tackle obesity

  • New research reveals less than 1 in 5 (15%) of the public believe supermarkets are doing enough to tackle obesity
  • Almost half of the public (48%) believe that legislation should be introduced to require supermarkets to proactively encourage healthier choices
  • The UK’s first ever supermarket designed by public health experts has been launched to showcase how the retail layout and shopper experience can be transformed to encourage customers to make healthier choices

A new report, Health on the Shelf published today (26th July 2019) by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Slimming World, exposes the marketing tactics used to drive sales of unhealthy products and reveals that supermarket layout, pricing strategies and shopping environment is fuelling the obesity epidemic. The report is published in advance of the Government’s expected response to the consultation on layout and price promotions.

The report also reveals that over one third (36%) of shoppers reported that they impulse purchase unhealthy products because they are on special offer, and one in five say supermarkets cause them to go off track when attempting to lose weight.

An audit of small, ‘local’ style supermarkets found that many unhealthy products such as confectionary and crisps are located in multiple prominent areas around the store, including at the end of aisles and around the checkout. RSPH and Slimming World are now calling for government and industry to do more to support supermarkets in encouraging healthier choices to consumers.

Health on the Shelf recommends:

· To adopt a set of key principles to apply to all major supermarket retailers, to include:

- Greater allocation of shelf space to healthier products, based on the Government’s EatWell Guide[1];

- The introduction of a healthy rewards scheme;

- Provision of recipe cards and cooking demonstrations on how to use ingredients to create healthy meals.

· Business rate reductions for supermarkets and retailers who take health seriously by adopting key principles.

· Explore introducing a healthy rating scheme, similar to the FSA’s Food Hygiene Rating Scheme ‘scores on the doors’, based on the proportion of healthy and unhealthy products stocked.

To bring this to life, RSPH and Slimming World have opened the UK’s first ever supermarket designed by public health experts to nudge consumers to make healthier choices. Nudge at The People’s Supermarket, located in Central London, is open to the public, and highlights how supermarkets can be health promoting environments.

The re-imagined supermarket features:

· Nudge points to encourage customers to re-consider their purchases, for example by swapping to a low-fat version;

· Layout and shelf allocation based on what constitutes a balanced diet according to the EatWell Guide;

· Knowledgeable and friendly staff with basic nutritional training;

· Free samples of cheap and nutritious food and live cookery demonstrations made at the onsite kitchen, with accompanying recipe cards.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-eatwell-guide

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “The environment in which we live is a major contributor towards obesity, and supermarkets have both the power and influence as well as a responsibility in tackling their contribution to this “obesogenic” environment. There has been some progress by supermarkets in areas such as removing junk from check outs, but our research shows that shoppers and industry experts feel there is much more supermarkets can and should do to promote healthier choices – reducing the shelf allocation for unhealthy products, providing clearer labelling and signage and even changing the shopper experience. We wanted to practically show what this new approach could look like, by unveiling the UK’s first supermarket designed by public health experts.

“Alongside Slimming World, we are calling on the government to commit to legislation to support supermarkets in promoting healthier choices through legislation. If we change the environment we can encourage healthier choices for all.”

Carolyn Pallister, Public Health Manager
Being overweight not only impacts on people’s physical health, it can also impact on overall mental and emotional wellbeing and happiness; anything that helps those of us who struggle with our weight to make healthier choices is a good thing.
Carolyn Pallister, Public Health Manager

“Our member survey showed that with support and guidance to make better food choices, people feel empowered to adapt their shopping routines to ensure they are eating an overall healthy, balanced diet to support weight loss. At Slimming World, we believe that as well as being healthy and balanced, people should have the flexibility to enjoy a variety of food and drink choices – we equip our members to intuitively make healthier choices so that they lose weight, and maintain it.

“Supermarkets will argue that they are giving their customers the choice; and we haven’t removed those choices at Nudge, all we’ve done is made it easier for customers to choose healthier alternatives and put less emphasis on promotions of foods likely to cause weight gain. If supermarkets empowered their consumers to make these changes themselves though through creating an environment which promoted a healthier diet, they could become part of the solution in helping tackle the obesity epidemic.”

A survey of over 2,000 slimmers following Slimming World’s eating plan online or attending a local weekly group, found that since becoming a Slimming World member 86% had changed the way they shop.

The survey reveals since joining, members have changed their behaviours when purchasing food and drink by making healthier choices. Before becoming members, 64% agreed they purchased unhealthy products because they were on special offer, now since becoming a Slimming World member, only 7% agree to this. In comparison, more than a third (36%) of the public agree they impulse buy unhealthy products because they are on special offer.

Only 30% of Slimming World members, before becoming a member, planned their meals in advance of going to the supermarket, but this has now increased to 75%, compared to only 48% of the public planning their meals.


Notes to Editors

For more information please contact: Lysette Mazur, Senior PR Officer, lysette.mazur@slimmingworld.co.uk / 01773 304 253 / 07940 582 491

About the research

The public survey was conducted by Populus on behalf of RSPH and Slimming World on 10th to 12th May 2019, and included a representative sample of 2,084 UK adults.

The survey of 2,319 Slimming World members was carried out online on 10th to 14th May 2019.

Slimming World

Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell (OBE, FRSA) in 1969 and is now celebrating its 50th anniversary. There are now more than 19,000 weekly groups supporting 900,000 members across the UK and Republic of Ireland. Groups are run by a network of 5,500 community-based Slimming World Consultants, who receive specific training in the role of diet and physical activity in weight management, as well as sophisticated behaviour-change techniques. Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, Food Optimising, is based on the science of satiety and energy density. Our phased activity programme, Body Magic, eases members into activity until it becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine. The principles behind Slimming World’s philosophy are based on a deep understanding of the challenges faced by overweight people and recognition that those who struggle with weight carry a double burden, the weight itself and a burden of guilt and shame about their weight. Slimming World’s programme integrates practical, up-to-date advice with a highly developed support system based on care and compassion, and Consultant training focuses on facilitating, encouraging and empowering members to make changes in a supportive, warm and friendly group environment. Consultant training is delivered through the Slimming World Academy. Slimming World also invests in a comprehensive research programme to develop its support for long-term weight management. The group support provided by Slimming World is recognised as effective by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the NHS.

For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit www.slimmingworld.co.uk or call 0344 897 8000. Follow Slimming World on Twitter at www.twitter.com/slimmingworld or become a Slimming World fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/slimmingworld

For the Press Office please email public.relations@slimmingworld.co.uk

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH)

· The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is an independent health education charity, dedicated to protecting and promoting the public’s health and wellbeing;

· We are the world’s longest-established public health body with more than 6,500 members drawn from the public health community both in the UK and internationally;

· Our operations include an Ofqual recognised awarding organisation, a training and development arm, and health and wellbeing accreditation.

· We also produce a wide-variety of public health conferences; our publishing division includes the internationally renowned journal Public Health; and we are developing policy and campaigns to promote better health and wellbeing.

· For more information visit our website or follow us on Twitter: @R_S_P_H.