Shoppers who stock up with supermarket promotions have more than a 50% increased chance of being obese, according to a report published today by Cancer Research UK.
The study found shoppers whose baskets contained between 40% and 80% of foods on special offer were 54% more likely to be obese (BMI >30) than those with a maximum 20% of foods on such deals, and 13% more likely to be overweight (BMI >25 and <30).
Those shoppers who bought a large number of goods on promotion also purchased nearly a third less fruit, and nearly a quarter fewer vegetables than shoppers who bought the least promotions, according to the study of more than 10,000 households, which used data from Kantar Worldpanel.
“Promotional items offer people a wealth of tempting yet unhealthy food and drink choices when doing their weekly shop,” said Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert.
“With cut-price deals on things like chocolate, biscuits, cakes and fizzy drinks, it’s no surprise that people who buy more on promotion have a greater likelihood of being obese.”
The study comes with the government consulting on proposals for a clampdown on in-store promotions of HFSS products, which could include a ban at checkouts and aisle ends, or more sweeping measures.
The moves, unveiled in January, were condemned by industry leaders, after the government’s own estimates found they would cost businesses at least £90m a year.
The FDF said the move would ramp up prices and was another hammer blow for businesses already facing huge uncertainty over Brexit.
In 2014, when it first drew up the evidence for its war on sugar, Public Health England admitted that with promotions accounting for 40% of food and drink take-home expenditure, a typical household would have to spend 16% more, or an extra £630 a year, if they were at full price.
“It is no surprise that people on low incomes are more likely to take advantage of price discounts and it is well known that people on low incomes are more likely to be obese,” said Chris Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs.
“By concluding that price discounts cause the obesity, the researchers make the basic mistake of confusing correlation with causation.
“There is no reason to believe that banning discounts would make people buy more fruit & vegetables and it is perverse to think that people on low incomes would benefit from food being made more expensive. The government’s own estimates suggest that banning price discounts on HFSS food could cost the average household £634 a year.”