Exploring ‘on-pack promotions’ on less healthy food and drink: A new report from Food Active

Exploring ‘on-pack promotions’ on less healthy food and drink: A new report from Food Active

We visited 6 major UK supermarkets to uncover the extent of on-pack promotions on food and drink products, and the results are in…

Published today (5th October), ‘On-pack promotions’ on Less Healthy Food and Drink: A Fieldwork Report uncovers the extent of on-pack promotions found on food and drink products across the 6 major UK supermarkets [1]. Between March – June 2022, supermarket’s were visited and every food or drink product with a coupon, pass or prize on the packaging was photographed, the food/drink category, name and brand of the product, type of offer and nutritional information per 100g/ml were all recorded. The Government’s Nutrient Profiling Model (NPM) was used to determine if a product was ‘healthy’ or ‘less healthy’.

Evidence has shown that marketing of less healthy food and drink, whether online, TV, on transport, in our high streets or supermarkets, encourages consumers to buy more of these foods. In particular, on pack promotions have been found to strongly influence purchasing habits, but the extent of on-pack promotions on food and drink products is less known.

The National Obesity Strategy, published this year, featured commitments from the Government to restrict advertising of less healthy food and drink products on TV, online and in supermarkets. Although location-based promotions restrictions have gone ahead, other planned restrictions have been delayed and there is fear they may be scrapped altogether, following a recent obesity policy review amidst the current cost-of-living crisis. Despite the range of promotions found on food and drink packaging, the use of on-pack promotions has not yet been explored in obesity strategies by the Government.

Key findings from the report:

  • Across all 6 supermarkets, a total of 174 on-pack promotions [2] were found on food and drink products
  • Of these products, just 19% were found on ‘healthier’ products as defined by the Nutrient Profiling Model, and the remaining 81% were found on ‘less healthy’ products
  • The ‘Big Four’ made up the majority of the offers, Aldi and Lidl only had one or two products with offers on the packaging
  • On pack promotions were mainly found on biscuits, confectionary, savoury snacks and breakfast cereals
  • Big brands including Kellogg’s, Walkers, Dolmio, Doritos and McVitie’s featured the most on-pack promotions
  • The most common promotions were competitions to win prizes (63%), followed by 2 for 1 offers (31%)


  • The Government should prioritise implementing the planned junk food marketing legislation on TV and online and consult on whether marketing on food and drink packaging should also be regulated
  • Food companies should only place these promotions on healthier products, and consider offers that encourage participation in activities that promote movement, sports and physical activity
  • Supermarkets should consider how marketing techniques can be used to encourage consumers to purchase healthier foods

This research uncovered the extent of on-pack promotions on food or drink products found in major UK supermarkets. As a nation, we are consuming well above the recommended intake of sugar, saturated fat and salt, and the use of giveaway promotions entices consumers to purchase less healthy food and drink products. Both retailers and the Government have an opportunity to positively influence the nation’s health. Supermarkets should consider partnerships with retailers to ensure these types of offers, and the many other forms of persuasive food marketing are used to promote healthier products. We urge the Government not to delay the planned food and drink marketing legislation any longer and to recognise the loophole in on-pack promotions.


If you would like to find out more about the research, please email chloe.higham-smith@foodactive.org.uk

[1] Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl

[2] Offers included holidays, cash prizes, free tickets/passes to theme park attractions, sports games, entertainment shows and the cinema


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