Five reasons why we need restrictions on promotions of less healthy food and drink by price and place

by Beth Bradshaw | 5 April, 2019 3:12 pm

Today Food Active submitted a response in support of introducing restrictions on the promotion of less healthy food and drink by price and place as part of the latest Department of Health and Social Care consultations.

In January 2019, the Department for Health and Social Care opened up a 12-week consultation period on restricting promotions of less healthy food and drink by price and place. The consultation was originally expected in late 2018, but was subject to a number of delays. The consultation aims to collect views from a wide range of stakeholders on whether to introduce this measure as legislation – and the practicalities of doing so, officially closing on Saturday 6th April.

Food Active fully supports the introduction of restrictions to promotions on less healthy food and drink by price and place, and we believe it is a important measure that should form as a wider  comprehensive package of improvements to the food environment that support healthier lifestyles.

We have published two pieces of research in 2019 to inform our response;

But this isn’t all the evidence that is currently available – there is a large body of evidence to suggest promotions on junk food are bad for our health (and pockets too). In our latest blog, we highlight the five most important reasons why we think restrictions to promotions on less healthy food and drink by price and place are warranted.

Five reasons why we need restrictions on the promotion of less healthy food and drink by price and place

  1. Price promotions are mostly on less healthy types of food and drink and is linked to obesity: Evidence shows that the large part of promotions are typically on less healthy food and drink options – our research in the North West demonstrated that the number of promotions brought on less healthy products dwarfed the number of healthier promotions purchased. Furthermore, new research from Cancer Research UK found that shoppers who bought the most on promotion were 54% more likely to be overweight and obese than shoppers who bought the least on promotion.
  2. Promotions on less healthy food and drink are often placed at strategic locations in-store, such as the checkouts, store entrances and end of aisles that boost sales: Evidence from The Obesity Health Alliance found that 43% of all food and drink products placed in prominent in-store locations (like aisle ends and checkouts) were for sugary food and drinks – these locations are known to tempt consumers to make impulse purchases, result in children pestering parents and boost sales.
  3. They don’t actually save you money: Contrary to public opinion, these deals do not actually save consumers money. Research from Public Health England shows that price promotions on sugary foods do not save people money, but actually encourage people to spend more. Furthermore, evidence shows that multi-buy promotions encourage people to make unplanned purchases and normalise buying more in the long-term. This also doesn’t help families make healthy choices, nor do they help people save money.
  4. They are not just in food stores, they are everywhere: Our research with the UK Health Forum and Public Health England shows that a large number of non-food retailers (department stores, newsagents, gift stores and games and toy stores) are selling food and drink – not are they mainly less healthy options such as crisps, chocolate and sweets, a number of them are subject to price promotions and placed at strategic locations in stores. Why are we seeing promotions of less healthy food and drink next to socks, sofas and children’s toys?
  5. Most importantly – the public support it: More than 3 in 4 parents (77%) in Children’s Food Campaign Parents’ Jury survey agreed that the government should ban unhealthy food displays at checkouts, aisle ends and store entrances. This finding was echoed in our regional North West research, whereby 74% supported such restrictions – of which 51% strongly Restrictions to all types of price promotions were also supported by over half of respondents in our survey.

We thank the Government for providing us with the opportunity to respond to this consultation and look forward to discovering the outcome in due course. We believe this is a positive step towards the Government’s ambition of halving childhood obesity by 2030 and to help children #GrowUpHealthy.

You can view our response via the button below.


If you would like to respond to the consultation, there is only one day left to respond before the deadline of midnight on Saturday 6th April. You can either:

  1. Purchases of price promotions of less healthy food and drink in the North West:
  2. The availability and marketing of food and drink in the traditional non-food sector:

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