As well as a cost of living crisis, the UK is also battling an obesity epidemic.
A recent UN World Health Organisation report found the UK had the third highest prevalence of obesity in Europe.
With the price of healthy food out of reach for an increasing number of Brits and fatty, salty and sugary foods so cheap, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the nation’s health is in a parlous state.
A new report published this week by the Access to Nutrition Initiative and investor pressure group ShareAction has looked into how much work the UK’s biggest supermarkets are doing to improve the nation’s health.
So which supermarkets came out on top as the healthiest to shop at?
NationalWorld has analysed the rankings and what each of the UK’s biggest 11 food and drink retailers is doing to promote healthier lifestyles among consumers.
1. Tesco (score = 5.2 out of 10)
The UK’s biggest supermarket chain came out on top of the rankings.
The report said it had committed to increasing sales of healthier products from 58% to 65% by 2025, following shareholder action, and performed strongly on its health governance frameworks and strategies.
Tesco was also found to use its Clubcard loyalty scheme to incentivise consumers towards healthy products.
Its head of health campaigns Oonagh Turnbull told NationalWorld: “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.”
2. Sainsbury’s (4.8 out of 10)
In second place, Sainsbury’s was praised by the report for allocating responsibility for delivering its nutrition strategy to a senior executive.
It too had set itself targets to increase sales of fruit and vegetables and other healthy foods, and used its Nectar loyalty scheme to direct shoppers to healthier choices.
Sainsbury’s performed best out of all the supermarkets on its in-store pricing, promotion and placement of healthier options, as well as the accessibility of nutrition information and labelling, according to the report.
A spokesperson for the retailer told NationalWorld: “We’re proud of our strong track record of helping our customers access healthy and sustainable diets.
“We are committed to continuing this work in a range of ways – from our industry-leading traffic light nutritional labelling to our reformulation programme and the ambitious targets we have set ourselves to grow healthier sales as part of our commitment to Help Everyone Eat Better.”
3. Aldi (4.3 out of 10)
Also committing to increase sales of healthy foods, Aldi’s work to put together a healthy shopping basket with the British Dietetic Association (BDA) was noted in the report as an interesting example of a supermarket trying to improve its customers’ health.
It also drew praise for progressing on its targets to sell more fruit and veg and keeping sugar in its own-brand soft drinks low.
Aldi said it would not comment on the findings.
4. Lidl GB (4.1 out of 10)
As with Sainsbury’s, Lidl drew praise for assigning a senior executive to its nutrition strategy.
It was also found to have set targets to increase sales of healthier food products and use its loyalty scheme to help its shoppers make healthier choices.
Lidl came first in the ‘product formulation’ category - in part for its work on reducing bad fats in its own-brand products, as well as looking to lower salt and sugar content in its products - and ranked second in ‘governance’ for having a comprehensive nutrition strategy.
The discounter has plans to increase sales volumes of healthy and healthier products to 85% of its overall sales by 2025, and has committed to reduce cost barriers for them.
Lidl did not respond to a request for comment.
5. Co-op (4 out of 10)
Co-op drew praise for committing not to run in-store promotions aimed at kids for less healthy products, as well as using recognised metrics to measure how healthy its products are.
Its target to reduce calories in its own-label products, and sugar and salt content in some product categories was also noted by the report.
Co-op did not respond to a request for comment.
6. M&S (3.9 out of 10)
M&S was praised for being the only supermarket to give the researchers evidence of a “comprehensive” plan to deliver better nutrition for its customers.
It has also pledged to make half of the food it sells healthy by the end of 2022 and was found to have transparent reporting on its progress across several targets.
M&S did not respond to a request for comment.
7. Morrisons (3.3 out of 10)
Sitting on the overall average score, Morrisons was found to have kept sugar in own-label soft drinks low and disclosed its progress towards government salt targets.
It had also achieved an average price reduction of 18% on several lines of fruit and veg, making it easier for people to afford healthier foods.
Morrisons did not respond to a request for comment.
8. Waitrose (3 out of 10)
Alongside Co-op, Waitrose has committed not to run in-store promotional activity targeted at children that features unhealthy products.
One way it had done this was by removing cartoon characters from all food products.
The upmarket retailer was also found to use nutrient profiling to inform where products go on shelf and where they are promoted.
A Waitrose spokesperson said: "We have many health initiatives in place and we’re already implementing some of ATNI’s recommendations.
“Since this research was carried out we’ve launched a groundbreaking initiative with charity Home-Start, helping families to improve their nutrition, health and wellbeing."
9. Asda (2.5 out of 10)
As with some of the other retailers, Asda was found to have a low sugar content in its own-brand soft drinks.
It ranked lowest (of the retailers who participated in the research), due to having the least detailed commitments and targets.
For example, it was found not to have a nutrient-specific commitment to reduce levels of sugar, calories and salt in its products.
Asda did not respond to a request for comment.
10. Iceland (0.6 out of 10 - did not share additional data with the report writers)
Iceland did not work with the report’s researchers and did not respond to a request for comment.
11. Ocado (0.5 out of 10 - did not share additional data with the report writers)
Ocado told NationalWorld: “Ocado Retail 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.”