Just one promotion was found on eggs – a packaged snacking option rather than a carton of eggs intended for everyday use.
This comes as The Food Foundation publishes its latest round of national food insecurity data which shows 17% of households are struggling to put food on the table.
Earlier this year, the government delayed restrictions to multibuys or ‘buy one get one free’ (BOGOF) deals on foods high in salt, sugar and fat (HFSS), arguing that families would need access to these price reductions during the cost of living crisis.
This new data suggests that in fact the foods which families really need to be on discount during the cost of living crisis are not subject to multi-buys – instead almost a third (29%) of are on high fat, salt and sugar products (HFSS).
The Food Foundation’s Kids Food Guarantee, funded by Fusion21, finds that only a tiny percentage of the deals apply to staple ingredients or essential items for feeding families.
The higher price of healthier calories relative to less healthy calories means it is already more challenging for citizens struggling with the cost of living to afford a healthy diet, especially those from low income groups, but the current distribution of multibuys do not help with the affordability of basic staple foods such as fruit and vegetables.
Much like advertising spend in the UK, where a third (33%) of food and soft drink advertising spend goes towards confectionery, snacks, desserts and soft drinks compared to just 1% for fruit and vegetables.
In the non-HFSS multibuy category, a wide range of foods were available, including marinades, sauces, spices and herbs, kitchen ingredients and composite foods such as ready meals.
The category ‘Other’ includes those products where nutrient information is missing online, which makes it difficult to calculate an accurate NPM score and determine whether the product is HFSS or not.
The Food Foundation data highlights that offering promotions could be a useful tool for supporting consumers to stretch their food budget further when promotions are on essential items.
But unless such promotions are structured so that they help citizens to afford healthier staple foods – rather than discretionary foods high in salt, sugar and fat – multibuy offers will only further obstruct the shift towards making healthier diets the easier, more affordable option.
The Kids Food Guarantee is calling for the following changes:
- Where multibuy deals are offered, retailers and manufacturers ought to place deals on staple carbohydrates and healthy essentials like fruit and vegetables, milk and eggs rather than on less healthy, HFSS foods.
- Other retailers ought to follow Sainsbury’s responsible business leadership in committing to ban promotions on HFSS foods despite the government rolling back the planned implementation of this policy to October 2025. Where commitments have been made to phase out HFSS promotions, as in the case of Tesco, commitments ought to be swiftly implemented.
- Government to reconsider their delay of the planned ban on HFSS promotions. It will not be possible for the government to meet their goal of halving childhood obesity by 2030 unless urgent action is taken to rebalance the food environment.
Anna Taylor, executive director of The Food Foundation, said: “Levels of food insecurity remain worryingly high, with 17% of households experiencing food insecurity in June 2023. This is over twice as high as levels in January 2022.
“With food price inflation falling only very slowly, we need both government and retailers to urgently step up and support households through the cost of living crisis.
“That support needs to make sure that families are able to access and afford healthy staples such as fruit and veg. Running promotional deals on junk food simply makes it even harder for many to access and afford nutritious food.”
Katharine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “It’s coming up to three years since then Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he would take bold steps to prevent obesity, which results in poor health such as cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
“Yet government delays to restricting multibuy offers, which do not save people money and are creating shopping baskets full of unhealthy food.
“Supermarkets should put healthier foods on special offers, ones that are on people’s shopping lists and that don’t hurt their health, for a healthier Britain.”