tesco hfss

Tesco has claimed its voluntary removal of HFSS multibuy promotions has led to millions of customers changing their diets, despite the government shelving plans to make the move mandatory.

The supermarket giant has published a report in conjunction with the British Nutrition Foundation on a raft of measures it has taken to make baskets healthier. Tesco has set a target of 65% of its sales being “healthy” by 2025.

While the government went ahead with the ban on HFSS promotions in prominent store locations, introduced last October, it has shelved plans for a crackdown on multibuy promotions until after the election. However, Tesco has gone ahead with its own voluntary ban.

It has also run a ‘Better Baskets’ campaign, aimed at nudging customers towards healthier products, and made the HFSS content of suppliers’ products part of its ongoing range reset.

The report claims 3.3 million Tesco customers purchased at least 10% more healthy products in 2022, amid the changes to product placement and promotions.

It said Better Baskets had helped customers switch to healthier lines, driving a 12% increase in volumes with 500,000-plus more shoppers’ baskets now made up of at least 65% healthy products.

Tesco’s report comes with a debate raging over how the industry should take forward the war on obesity after the government’s series of backtracks.

While the Department of Health & Social Care is preparing plans for all major food companies to voluntarily publish data on the health of their products, there have been growing calls for mandatory targets to be set, with Asda and Sainsbury’s both backing regulation at the recent Labour conference.

Last week, The Grocer revealed that Nesta, the nudge body that has gone into partnership on health with Asda, is calling for supermarkets to face mandatory targets set against average health scores on all their products.

It has stressed the targets would differ from commitments such as that made by Tesco, because as well as being mandatory they would work on an average across all products, rather than a headline figure for the percentage of healthy products.

Tesco’s partnership with the BNF is set to move on to a series of regional consultations, which they said would bring together key stakeholders including local food partnerships, public health directors and academics, to help build consensus on effective action to tackle obesity.

Labour, meanwhile, has pledged to introduce the crackdown on junk food advertising and multibuys shelved by the Tories, though it has stopped short of backing calls for new taxes on HFSS products.

Tesco chief commercial officer Ashwin Prasad said the changes, including the voluntary removal of HFSS multibuy promotions, had allowed Tesco to rapidly accelerate progress in making its food healthier.

“We want Tesco to be the most convenient place for our customers to shop for healthy, affordable and sustainable food”

“In 2021, we set out our plans to do just that and to help customers eat more healthily. This includes a target to increase sales of healthy products, as a proportion of total sales, to 65% by 2025, as defined by the government’s nutrient profiling model.

“We’re committed to being transparent in how we’re doing against our target, so that we and others in the industry can learn what works when it comes to promoting healthier diets.

“Setting a clear target and measuring our progress is helping us identify how the changes we’re making are having an impact. We are also investing in extensive research and innovative customer modelling using our Clubcard data, to understand the opportunities for driving healthier purchases.

“This data allows us to have more informed conversations with our suppliers to encourage reformulation and innovation and inspire similar commitments, and internally to measure continued progress where we know it will have the biggest impact.”

BNF CEO Elaine Hindal said: “By any credible measure, rates of ill health driven by poor diets are increasing. Despite best intentions, reversing this unacceptable reality cannot be delivered solely through the actions of well-meaning individuals.

“The pace and scale of the changes required to our food environment call for close collaboration and shared responsibility and it is only by working together that we can balance the needs of a contemporary food system, with better access to a healthy and sustainable diet for all.

“I am proud to be partnering with Tesco, as this represents exactly the collaboration and shared sense of responsibility, I believe we need to deliver meaningful change with genuine impact to the UK food environment.”