The wide-ranging measures to tackle Scotland’s obesity crisis were advised in a report by the University of Stirling, commissioned by FSS. Manufacturers and retailers should both promote healthy choices, the report added.
The Scottish food watchdog called for a “retail revolution”, including extending the sugar tax beyond soft drinks.
FSS senior dietary advisor Gillian Purdon said: “The report supports FSS views and recommendations for the need to extend sugar tax beyond soft drinks, to reformulate products to reduce sugar fat and salt, to resize portions, address less healthy food promotion and to provide clearer consumer information on products in both the retail and out of home sectors.
“We believe it is vital that action is taken to change the imbalance of in-store promotions in favour of healthier food and that consumers have the clearest possible information to make informed choices.”
A ‘food retail standard’ should also be introduced to regulate product promotions in supermarkets, the report claimed. Funding for trials to establish which promotion interventions worked best should also be acquired.
Co-author of the report Professor Leigh Sparks said: “The environment confronting consumers is not a neutral one, allowing ‘free choice’. Promotions and product information shape consumers’ choices and behaviours. Retailing is both part of the problem, but could be a major part of the solution.
‘Alter the architecture of in-store choice’
“Voluntary initiatives and simple healthy promotions have failed. The time to consider a range of actions to alter the architecture of in-store choice may now be upon us.”
Shoppers are currently “bombarded” with presentations, prices and promotions that favour unhealthy products, the university said.
Sparks added: “Consumers are attracted to, and purchase, these products above others, often on promotion, and often in bulk sizes far beyond immediate consumption needs.
“There is a need to understand and adjust the retail environment presented to customers in-store, as this drives choice decisions.”
The report will help FSS to develop new approaches to improve the balance of food promoted by retailers, FSS said. A combination of measures would be needed to encourage healthier eating, but regulation promotions of HFSS products was a priority, it added.
University of Stirling report recommendations
- Regulation of product pack displays, pricing and promotions
- Levies on salt, fat and sugar
- Funding for trials to establish which interventions work best
- Introduction of a ‘Food Retail Standard’
- Measures to be required by all food consumption and purchasing outlets