Tesco had stated it would not run HFSS volume deals despite the government ban delay

Tesco is running a “5 for 4” promotional campaign featuring items such as ice creams, frozen desserts and pizzas despite previously pledging not to run multibuy deals on products high in fat, salt and sugar.

Tesco said earlier this year that it was committed to removing HFSS multibuy deals even after former Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed in May plans to delay restrictions on HFSS multibuy deals for another year due to “unprecedented” financial pressures facing families struggling to afford food.

However, Tesco recently launched a “frozen essentials” for Clubcard users, which included HFSS products.

The 5 for 4 offer was initially intended to run from 27 October through to 31 October across the entire frozen food range but at the time of writing it is still available online with 32 items featured, including Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum ice creams and Chicago Town pizzas.

Tesco did not comment on the fact that the multibuy promotion included HFSS products, but said that its frozen ranges were “really popular with customers who are looking to save money and reduce waste at home” and noted that shoppers were free to mix and match items as it suited their shopping needs.

“Our 5 for 4 deal offered Clubcard members an extra little help with their weekly shop, on everything from frozen veg to fishfingers – and even festive favourites, for customers looking to buy ahead and spread the cost of Christmas,” said a Tesco spokesman.

Tesco also noted that the campaign also included an array of non-HFSS items such as frozen broccoli florets, frozen cod fillets and McCain ready-baked jacket potatoes.

Read more: HFSS legislation is confusing, arbitrary and hard to enforce. Will it really make a difference to our health?

The news comes as a recent Tesco survey in partnership with the charity Diabetes UK showed that almost 60% of shoppers aged under 40 have “deprioritised” their health because of the cost of living crisis.

Barbara Crowther, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, said it was “disappointing” to see Tesco break its original promise.

“The Government regulations originally due to come into force in October are very clear in restricting such practices and would not have permitted this.

“It’s well evidenced that multi buy deals are designed primarily to get shoppers spending more not less, and in this case requires the purchase of 4 frozen items at full price in order to access the discount on offer.

“At a time that household budgets are under pressure, we believe there’s a better way for Tesco to support families to afford healthy food right now.”

Retailers have been split on how they reacted to the HFSS crackdown and the delay to the multibuy ban.

At the time of the HFSS promotions delay, Sainsbury’s also confirmed it would not run such deals.

“We know our customers in communities across the country are facing cost of living challenges and want to continue to provide healthy, nutritious food for their families,” a spokeswoman told The Grocer.

“Sainsbury’s is dedicated to making healthy choices more affordable and over the last year at least 70% of our promotions were on healthier or ‘better for you’ options.”

This was in contrast to Morrrisons, which stated shortly after Johnson’s May announcement that it was going ahead with HFSS volume deals to help customers facing the cost of living crisis.

This week it introduced new Clubcard-style loyalty card-only discounts across a raft of branded products, including Ben & Jerry’s and confectionery giants Cadbury, Mars and Nestlé.

“This evidence shows that we need the multibuy promotions legislation to come into force in 2023 in order to deliver the comprehensive transformation towards healthier food that the nation needs,” Crowther said.