Retailers are increasing the number of non-HFSS products included in multibuy and bogof deals, according to new data released by The Food Foundation this week.
The total proportion of multibuy offers on healthier groceries like staple carbohydrates and fruit & veg rose to 4.2% and 4.5% respectively in July across the traditional big four and Aldi, up from 3% and 3.8% respectively in April.
At the same time, the number of multibuy or bogof deals on products classed as HFSS fell marginally, from 29% in April to 27.3% in July.
The charity began tracking the number of multibuy offers, and the products included within them, as part of a wider set of work under its Kids Food Guarantee, launched in March. The latest update covers the period from 19 to 26 July.
Overall, there was a 6% increase in the total number of multibuy deals offered in July compared with April. The foundation uses the government’s nutrient profiling model to determine the healthiness of products included under the multibuy offers. It was not possible to accurately determine the nutritional profile on around 17% of all the products included.
Of the five supermarkets included, Asda has seen the biggest shift, with 23% of its multibuys during the period on products classed as non-HFSS, a 1.6ppt increase since April. However, the supermarket still had the joint-highest proportion of multibuys on HFSS products, with 11%, along with Morrisons. Sainsbury’s and Aldi continue to run price reduction strategies, so do not offer multibuys outside alcohol.
Tesco – which along with Sainsbury’s has voluntarily pledged to phase out multibuy deals – ran the smallest proportion of deals on HFSS products, at 6%. The supermarket has set the target of 65% of its sales to come from non-HFSS products by 2025.
In June, the government again delayed the introduction of a proposed ban on the use of multibuys and bogof offers to sell HFSS products. However, The Food Foundation is calling for multibuys on fresh fruit, and staples like tinned tomatoes, pasta, and eggs, to be more consistent to enable customers to access value all year round, and in all types of shops, particularly convenience stores.
“When you poll customers, they come out really strongly in favour of wanting more offers and deals on healthier, more sustainable products,” said Rebecca Tobi, senior business, and investor manager at The Food Foundation.
“Broadly speaking it’s encouraging to see that retailers are listening but there’s huge scope for more progress and a much greater pace,” she added.
While the data “looks promising” it’s likely that seasonality has played a role in the reduction, as April’s dataset covered a period that included Easter, where there were likely to be more offers for HFSS products like sweets, Tobi said.
Access and application of multibuy offers should be more consistent
Tobi added that in the past retailers had been reluctant to put multibuys on fresh lines due to concerns over food waste, while others had chosen to instead pursue an everyday lower pricing approach, rather than specific offers.
Initiatives like Sainsbury’s Great Big Fruit & Veg challenge – which offers Nectar cardholders additional loyalty points when they purchase fruit & veg during a seven-week period from August to October – and Aldi’s Super Six offer, had been successful at helping customers to access more affordable healthy basics, she added.
Including more healthier or fruit & veg products in meal deals was another tool supermarkets could use to improve the affordability of more nutritious food, Tobi said.
“You need to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” Tobi said. “So, seeing things like fruit & veg and staple carbohydrates centred in those deals would be a really impactful way of getting people to shift their consumption patterns without having to think about it, or have to pay more crucially, which is always a key barrier.”
Iceland, which is not yet tracked as part of The Food Foundation’s study, now includes fruit & veg in its three for £5 multibuy offer, following the relaunch of its fresh categories in October.
The data comes as The Grocer revealed that Nesta, the innovation charity spun out of No 10’s so-called Nudge Unit, is set to unveil plans that could see supermarkets face mandatory fines if they fail to meet government set health scores across their products.