Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Offers Drive Unhealthy Appetite

Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Offers Drive Unhealthy Appetite

Article excerpt

Retailers must run more promotions for healthy foods if consumers are to improve their diets. James Quilter reports.

For those trying to feed a family on a basic salary, the deals offered by supermarkets are often a good way to stretch a weekly budget. But, just as unhealthy food products have been under pressure for some time, now their pricing and promotions are coming under attack.

According to the National Consumer Council (NCC), the number of promotions for 'unhealthy' processed foods by leading supermarkets far outweighs those for 'healthy' fresh produce, such as fruit and vegetables. Supermarkets claim this is what consumers want.

Food manufacturers and retailers fund scores of offers for processed food, from multi-buys and price promotions to buy one, get one free. Customers get cheap deals while supermarkets and brands shift product. The only loser is the expanding waistline of consumers.

The NCC's report 'Healthy Competition', published last week, set retailers a target of running 33% of their price promotions for healthy products. The only one to approach this standard so far is Marks & Spencer (see table). Morrisons and Somerfield came joint last.

Wealth divide

The report's author, Sue Dibb, says retailers are failing the public, especially consumers on lower incomes.

'There is a definite class distinction - people on lower incomes eat less healthily,' she says. 'If you keep discounting unhealthy products and economy brands, these people are forced to pick them.'

Dibb singles out the Co-op as the only supermarket to have a specific policy for promoting healthy food in-store.

From the grocer's point of view, it is hard to discount fruit and vegetables in the same way as processed foods, according to Verdict Research senior analyst Gavin Rothwell. 'The problem is shelf life. If you're discounting baked beans, it is not a major issue if you sell 20% less than planned on a big promotion because they can still be sold 10 months later.'

Storing a large amount of perishable food is also a problem for consumers.

'What's the point of buying two packs of oranges for the price of one when you have to eat them within a limited time frame,' asks Rothwell.

Planet Retail analyst Bryan Roberts believes margins will always be paramount in determining which products are promoted. …

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