Special offers fuel obese shoppers

Cancer Research UK

Shoppers whose supermarket trolleys are stacked with food and drink offered on special promotions* have more than a 50% increased chance of being obese,** according to a Cancer Research UK report published today.

"Promotional items offer people a wealth of tempting yet unhealthy food and drink choices when doing their weekly shop. With cut-price deals on things like chocolate, biscuits, cakes and fizzy drinks, it’s no surprise that people who buy more on promotion have a greater likelihood of being obese." Professor Linda Bauld

This puts them at a greater risk of 13 different types of cancer including bowel and breast. 

The study, which looked at the habits of more than 16,000 British households, found that people whose shopping baskets contained around 40-80% of goods on special offer have a greater chance of piling on the pounds.

The research also found that almost half of all chocolate, crisps, popcorn, and savoury snacks were bought on promotion. Bargain-loving shoppers also bought 30% less fruit, and nearly 25% fewer vegetables. This equates to nearly 6kg less of fruit and veg every month than shoppers more inclined to shun the special offers***.

Around 3 in 10 food and drink products in shoppers’ baskets are bought on promotion in Great Britain, according to the findings. And the people who purchased the most items on offer bought 25% more food and drink high in fat, salt or sugar, equating to approximately 11 extra unhealthy items a month.***

Obesity was almost 30% higher among people from households which bought the most food and drink on special promotions compared to those who bought the least. Obesity is a national epidemic and the leading cause of preventable cancer in the UK after smoking.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “Promotional items offer people a wealth of tempting yet unhealthy food and drink choices when doing their weekly shop. With cut-price deals on things like chocolate, biscuits, cakes and fizzy drinks, it’s no surprise that people who buy more on promotion have a greater likelihood of being obese.

“With young children frequently being the ones who suffer from the effects of these purchases, introducing restrictions is important for their future health. We know that more than one in five enter primary school overweight or obese, yet the number worsens to around one in three when they leave.”

Alison Cox, director of cancer prevention at Cancer Research UK, said: “The government’s proposed 9pm ban on junk food ads is a step forward in fighting childhood obesity. Now we want to see restrictions on price promotions for unhealthy food and drink items, as well as those strategically-placed at checkouts. This will help families to make healthier choices.

“There isn’t one magic fix for the problem, but removing these incentives to buy unhealthy food is key to changing it.”

ENDS

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Notes to Editor

*“High” promotional purchasing form the top quartile of the population, purchasing 37.991% to 81.9% of items on promotion. “Low” promotional purchasers form the bottom quartile of the sample population, purchasing 0 to 20.9797% of items on promotion.

** High promotional purchasing is associated with 54% greater odds of being obese than low promotional purchasing

***Calculation based on a 2 adult, 2 school-child household

Data on the take-home food and drink purchasing of 16,148 British households was purchased from Kantar Worldpanel.

The UK Government is consulting on restricting certain types of price and location promotions for less healthy food and drink in England. This consultation is part of Chapter 2 of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan. The Paying the Price report will form part of the evidence Cancer Research UK submits in support of such restrictions.