Scottish retailers offer food for thought

A healthy diet and lifestyle are a priority.
A healthy diet and lifestyle are a priority.

Retailers are underlining their commitment to ensuring a healthy lifestyle is top of everyone’s shopping list.

The Scottish Retail Consortium is launching the third of four policy papers setting out the key priorities of the industry for each of the political parties ahead of the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.

And, as set out in today’s publication, diet and nutrition are at the heart of retail priorities for political manifestos.

Major food retailers have been proactive in helping consumers to make healthier choices through a wide range of initiatives, including the rollout of our front of pack nutrition labelling scheme, working on reformulation to produce nutritionally improved food and using new media to directly engage consumers.

Through working on their products, retailers have removed thousands of tonnes of sugar, salt and billions of calories from a wide selection of products that we enjoy every day in Scotland. Retailers have also been the first to remove the use of hydrogenated vegetable fats from all their food stuffs and have gone further by removing large quantities of saturated fat from ready meals, desserts, crisps, pastries and other products.

Against a challenging economic backdrop retailers have also tried to ensure that hard-pressed consumers can feed their families from a choice of high quality, nutritious food and on a budget. This has included the extensive and daily price promotion of fruit and vegetables, provision of menu cards, meal suggestions and cooking tips to help combat the myth that healthy food is more expensive.

But the challenge of combating Scotland’s track record for poor diet and health is not one for the retail industry alone and the publication is also setting out a range of commitments that the Consortium would like to see each of the political parties adopt in order to support further progress – not just from the retail industry but also to secure greater responsibility from the wider food industry and to support more informed consumer decisions.

Commenting on the launch of the Diet & Nutrition paper David Martin, head of policy and external affairs, said: “Retailers have taken great strides over recent years to make it easier for consumers to improve their diet and lifestyle through empowering customers and improving their products.

“Whilst it is ultimately up to individuals and parents to control their own and their children’s diet and physical activity, retailers have been working hard so that consumers can make the healthier choice through a revolution in how they communicate nutritional content, promoting healthier options like fruit and vegetables and helping customers to prepare healthier meals.

“Our members have also gone one step further by ensuring that own-brand products are healthier by removing thousands of tonnes of sugar, salt and billions of calories and reducing the fat content.

“Retailers have been very progressive in these areas but are being put at a competitive disadvantage because a significant proportion of the food industry has not made this investment in public health. As we approach the Holyrood election we ask each of the political parties to bear this in mind to take steps to help retailers go further but also to ensure that the entire food industry is playing its part.”