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Tesco recently committed to increasing sales of healthier food products from 58% to 65% of total sales by 2025

Tesco is the supermarket making the most positive contribution to consumer health, according to a new league table published by analysts working with campaign group ShareAction.

The Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) today published what it claimed to be the first such list in the world, comparing the performance of 11 major UK food retailers across eight areas including in-store promotions, product formulation, pricing and placement, and stakeholder engagement.

Tesco – which recently committed to increasing sales of healthier food products from 58% to 65% of total sales by 2025, following a shareholder resolution filed by ShareAction – topped the table with a score of 5.2 out of 10.

It was closely followed by Sainsbury’s (4.8) and Aldi UK (4.3). However, ATNI and ShareAction said there had been a “wide disparity” in the results, with Iceland and bottom-placed Ocado scoring just 0.6 and 0.5 respectively.

The report found five retailers – Aldi, Lidl, M&S, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – had set targets to increase their sales of healthier food products. All of these except M&S had set specific targets to increase sales of fruit and veg.

However, only Co-op and Waitrose had committed not to run in-store promotional activities directed at children featuring products deemed less healthy.

The report also highlighted Lidl GB, M&S, Sainsbury’s and Tesco for using their membership and rewards to incentivise the sale of healthy products.

All but Iceland, Ocado and Tesco were found to have made some efforts to restrict the usage of child-orientated characters on own-brand products.

Iceland is the only retailer that does not use traffic-light front-of-pack labels on its own-brand products.

“With two in every three pounds spent on food going to supermarkets, these companies have a major influence on the nation’s health,” said ShareAction senior campaigns and research officer Lily Roberts. “By better integrating considerations around nutrition across their business, progressive retailers can stay ahead of growing regulation in this space while driving improvements in public health outcomes.

“Investors are increasingly prioritising health within their policies and practices, and we expect them to continue robust company engagement on this theme.”

ATNI executive director Inge Kauer said: “I trust that the results and recommendations in this report will help the retail companies and other organisations active in the UK food system to increase their efforts to ensure food and nutrition security for all in the UK and prevent the further spread of diet-related diseases. 

“For supermarkets to hold the line on delivering affordable healthy products is more relevant than ever, with extra threats to food security posed by the Covid pandemic and the impact of the war in Ukraine. ATNI is ready to follow up with companies and continue monitoring progress over time.” 

Tesco head of health campaigns Oonagh Turnbull said: “We know that many of our customers are looking for help when it comes to eating more healthily. Building on our strong track record so far, we have a set of stretching targets on health, which we’ll report against regularly, and the drive to make real progress for our customers.”

An Ocado spokesman said: “Ocado did not participate in Share Action’s research which is reflected in the results. We are committed to helping our customers lead a healthy lifestyle in a sustainable and affordable way.”