Call for ban on cheap meal deals

Supermarkets are pushing poultry over plants and bombarding shoppers with multi-buys and price reductions on beef, according to new research commissioned by Eating Better. The charity wants a forthcoming ban on promotions of high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) to be extended to all meat.

Research conducted by Questionmark for Eating Better assessed the promotions being run by four supermarkets in a five-week period last August and September. Morrisons (1,490) and Asda (1,352) ran the most deals on meat and fish, followed by Tesco (948) and Sainsbury’s (933). 

The retailers used both multi-buys and price reductions. “This is further evidence that supermarkets are putting profit before population health and that of the planet, by bombarding us with Bogof burgers, sausages and cheap chicken of unknown origin,” said Simon Billing, executive director at Eating Better.

Supermarkets (and foodservice companies) have worked hard to publicise how they are pushing plant-based products. In 2020, Tesco committed to a 300% increase in sales of plant-based meat alternatives by 2025. Sainsbury’s has also committed to increase the proportion of its total sales tonnage that comes from vegetables by at least 1% by 2025/26. Tesco and Sainsbury’s are the only two major UK supermarkets to report on the percentage of their sales that come from plant-based products, according to the Food Foundation.

However, Billing told The Guardian that supermarkets were contradicting their commitments on sustainable diets by enticing shoppers with bogofs on beef and cheaper chicken. He called for the HFSS bans to be extended to all meat promotions.

Currently, only 1% of the promotions would fall within the restrictions set to come into force in October under the government’s obesity plan (though there are reports that the legislation could be delayed further). Just over half of consumers support the HFSS bans, according to recent polling by YouGov.

The national food strategy, written by Henry Dimbleby, called for a 30% reduction in consumption of meat over the next 10 years. For the average Sainsbury’s shopper fruits and vegetables make up just 27% of the basket, compared to the 39% dietary contribution recommended by the Eatwell Guide. 

Katie White, executive director of advocacy and campaigns at WWF, said: “While it’s encouraging to see many supermarkets working to develop, provide and promote an expanded range of plant-based products, they must go further, faster to achieve a more equal balance between the sale of plant-based protein and animal based protein by 2030 – this is critical in halving the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket.”

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