Healthy eating trends are hitting independent retailers in a major way, according to the latest survey of The Grocer Top 50 store chains.

All respondents say their stores have increased their stocks of so-called healthy products since the year began. Some say they have seen a rise in the sales of such products at the same time as a decline in sales of impulse confectionery in the past 10 months.

None of those responding to the survey say the trend has influenced the amount of space they devote to crisps and sweets. But one says: “Canned and packaged grocery tend to be losing space because they are in decline in our stores.”

Half say they have run major fresh food promotions since the beginning of the year.

Opinion is divided on whether school crackdowns had driven schoolchildren to independent retailers to buy more sugary and fatty snacks at breaktimes. Half of those responding to our survey say they have seen this happening and half say they have not.

Two thirds of retailers say they fear that the healthy eating campaign has reached such a level that the government's next step could be to introduce legislation targeting independent retailers.

Many justify their concerns by pointing to the fact that eating in schools and advertising to children have already come under scrutiny from politicians as part of the healthy eating drive. Measures banning 'junk food' in school vending machines are set to take effect from next September.

While independents feel the wisest course would be to avoid a heavy-handed approach, they also say the government's record shows it would not take that attitude. One says: “If politicians interfered too much there would be a backlash, but unfortunately I do think further legislation is likely.”

One possibility could be that the government would continue to investigate ways of taxing products deemed to be less healthy than others.

Many suggested the idea of making cooking lessons and dietary classes compulsory in schools as an alternative to legislation controlling independent retailers.

Two thirds of the retailers in our survey say they have heard of the government's Healthy Start scheme encouraging healthy eating.

The questions we asked:

1: Have you stocked more healthy products this year?
Yes - 100%

2: Have you seen more schoolchildren buying 'treats' they can't get at school?
Yes - 50%
N - 50%

3: Do you foresee measures aimed at retailers promoting healthy eating? Yes - 67%
No - 33%

4: Have you run major fresh food promotions this year?
Yes - 50%
No - 50%

5: Have you heard of the Healthy Start scheme?
Yes - 67%
No - 33%