Supporting Healthy Choices – Are Retailers Up for the Challenge?

The Scottish Government and FSA Scotland released revealed their Supporting Healthy Choices framework, a wide range of voluntary commitments which aim to tackle Scotland’s health issues, which includes removing confectionery from the tillpoint.

by Geoff Ogle

There is a clear opportunity for retailers in Scotland to influence and improve the health of their customers by taking on the Supporting Healthy Choices challenge. Supporting Healthy Choices sets out our ambition to work collaboratively with food businesses and the public sector to make it easier for the Scottish population to choose healthier food and drink options. There are 17 shared commitments for action aimed at retailers, manufacturers, out of home catering businesses, and the public sector including NHS Scotland and local authorities. Poor diet contributes significantly to poor health in Scotland, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Children’s diets are particularly poor, and the majority of adults (over 64%) in Scotland are now overweight or obese. This problem is not going away. In Scotland, we know that around three-quarters of the calories consumed come from food and drink purchased in retail settings. At least seven of the commitments are relevant to retailers. These include removing confectionery from till points, providing healthier meal deals, rebalancing food and drink promotions, reformulation of products to reduce calories, fats, sugars and salt and the adoption of front of pack labelling. By taking some or all of these actions Scottish retailers can have a positive impact on the health of their customers.

Longer living, healthy customers are good for business. Despite considerable effort, progress has been too slow – consumption of foods high in fats, salt and sugar remains too high whilst intakes of fruit and vegetables, oil rich fish and fibre remain too low. Together, Scottish Ministers and the Food Standards Agency in Scotland have real ambitions and expectations about addressing the public health challenges that arise from poor diet and we are keen to see a significant increase in the pace of change. Consumer consumption habits need to change but that change in lifestyle needs to be made easier. We know that change can be challenging for small businesses, especially in accessing support and expertise. For this reason, the Scottish Government is committed to continued funding and support for the Scottish Grocers Federation Healthy Living Programme which is set up to help small retailers and convenience stores. If you would like more information about how to get involved in the Healthy Living Programme, please contact the Scottish Grocers’ Federation on 0131 343 3300 or go to www.scottishshop.org.uk/sgfhlp. Signing up to Supporting Healthy Choices is simple. Partners just need to specify which commitments they intend to work towards over the course of the next year.

Partners will then be required to submit a short action plan setting out the activity they have taken or intend to take. We do not expect sign up to every commitment and any other activities which support healthier food and drink choices across Scotland are also welcomed. Companies have already started to sign up and their action plans can be viewed on the Scottish Government website. So far we have had very positive engagement from retailers and the Scottish Grocers Federation and we need to sustain the momentum. Changing the Scottish diet is simply something we all need to contribute to.

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