Parents are being persuaded by supermarket special offers to fill their trolleys with bargain-buy junk food, new research by Cancer Research UK has found.
A survey commissioned by Cancer Research UK asked how multi-buy offers on food and drink items that are high in sugar, salt or fat influenced Scots’ shopping habits.
The results were startling, with around nine in 10 (89 per cent) parents believing supermarket promotions impact what they buy.
Cancer Research UK is calling on the Scottish Government to urgently restrict supermarket multi-buy offers and related promotions on unhealthy food to make it easier for people to make healthier choices.
The poll also shows the offers could be having a profound effect on what type of foods parents are feeding their families.
Almost six in 10 (57 per cent) parents polled said promotions lead them to buy more junk food than they really want, supporting recent evidence that discounting junk food leads to extra ‘unplanned’ purchases.
The survey also reveals that more than two in three parents (71 per cent) think too much junk food is on promotion in supermarkets. Around three quarters of parents (75 per cent) would like to see that balance shifted towards healthier items.
The polling was done by Cancer Research UK to explore some of the possible reasons why Scotland is in the grip of an obesity epidemic.
And with obesity linked to 13 different types of cancer, the leading charity is demanding strong action from the Scottish Government when it publishes its obesity strategy later this year.
Cancer Research UK cancer prevention expert Professor Linda Bauld, who is based at the University of Stirling, said: “These offers are persuading parents to ignore their shopping lists and buy cheap unhealthy food in large quantities.
“And if that junk food sits in our kitchen cupboards, we’re tempted to keep reaching for it, even if it’s been bought as a treat.
“The consequence of this fatty and sugary food can be seen on growing waistlines across Scotland.
“As part of its expected obesity strategy, the Scottish Government has an opportunity to help families make it easier to keep a healthy weight.
“By restricting special offers on unhealthy food and drink, we can make our shopping baskets healthier.”
The Cancer Research UK poll also found that almost eight in 10 (78 per cent) of parents polled had bought either food or drink that was on a multi-buy offer in the last month.
It’s a temptation that Susan Shaw and her daughter Katie, a mother-of-three, can understand.
Susan runs nine Scottish Slimmers classes in Edinburgh and she says many of those attending her weight loss classes say they fall victim to multi-buy offers on junk food.
Susan (61), of The Murrays, Edinburgh said: “Navigating the weekly shop is tough. Walking around the supermarket aisles you are bombarded with temptation. I think we would all welcome a nudge in the right direction and if the Scottish Government banned the sale of unhealthy food at cheap prices we’d all get on a lot better.
“If the offers were instead focussed on fruit and veg, good quality meat, fish, as well as healthy snacks, people would be encouraged to eat better because these items would be available at a good price.”
Susan’s daughter Katie Beatt, aged 34, of Dunfermline, does a weekly shop for her husband Mark, and her three sons Lewis, aged six, Murray, aged four, and two-year-old Oscar.
Katie admits she has a weight problem but endeavours to only buy healthy food for her family.
She said: “I would love it if these unhealthy foods were not on offer at all as I’d be less inclined to buy them. I’m a sucker for an offer. It makes me think, ‘I’ll just get that for the cupboard while it’s on offer’. If you know it’s in the cupboard, you just want to eat it.
“If the offers were on healthy foods instead, then that’s what I would stock up on. It would also help make the weekly shop more affordable. I only buy healthy food for my boys to eat but that can be expensive.”