Access to Nutrition Initiative launches supermarket scoreboard

24 May 2022

On average, retailers in the UK only scored a 3.3 out of 10 in their efforts to promote healthy nutrition choices for their consumers, according to an index composed by the Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) that analyses and benchmarks efforts by retailers to address nutrition challenges. This score indicates that companies need to enhance their efforts to encourage healthier diets in the UK.

Findings showed that out of the 11 major retailers that were reviewed, “no one company standing out as taking strong action across all 8 Topics assessed.” The report concluded that there is a “clear discrepancy” between the UK government’s Eatwell Guide, which provides recommendations for consuming a balanced diet, and the average British diet. The analysis demonstrated that most people are eating too many foods high in fat, salt and sugar and low in fruit, vegetables, fibre and wholegrain

Access to Nutrition Initiative launches supermarket scoreboard
Image courtesy of ATNI

Not all categories saw evenly distributed scores

In the report, each retailer was assessed across 126 indicators that influence customer choices and behaviour, both online and in-store. These indicators included a store’s commitment, performance and disclosure around the health value of products in addition to the production and placement of healthy, affordable products.

Across all the categories evaluated, retailers scored the lowest (1.1 out of 10) on infant and young child nutrition. Transparency through on-pack advertising and product reformulation each had an average score of 2.8 out of 10. Retailers scored the highest in the accessibility of nutrition information and labelling category, but there was a wide range of scores suggesting that clear action has been taken by some retailers to improve labelling, while others need to update their approach.

Although the overall score for promoting nutritious food was low, 9 of the 11 retailers actively engaged during the research, which ATNI said “is promising” for the future of nutrition and health in supermarkets. 

Improving nutrition is a major concern in the UK

With population nutrition is a large concern for many countries, in the UK, poor diets have been shown to lead to early mortality. In a study published in the journal Lancet, researchers found that 14% of UK deaths are related to diet. To help improve this statistic, the British government has been striving to improve diets by launching a pilot program to increase exercise in addition to fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as recently passing legislation to require calorie information to be displayed on menus and food labels at restaurants and cafes. 

However, the index from the Access to Nutrition Initiative pointed to retailers as a major driving force supporting consumers’ food choices in the UK. According to the report, over 80% of grocery purchases are from the 11 retailers that were analysed. The heft of this figure is underscored when considering that the majority of expenditures on food and beverage were for at-home consumption. In 2019, 55% of all food and beverage expenditures (including alcoholic beverages) were for at-home consumption, the ATNI index found. 

With such stakes riding on consumer choice at the grocery store, the report recommended that retailers “enhance their efforts to deliver healthy and affordable food products, market responsibly, provide clear information on nutritional quality and products’ relative healthiness and report on this in a transparent way.”

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