Move by retailer welcomed by health and parenting groups and backed, according to survey, by two-thirds of customers
|Tesco was the first British supermarket to remove sweets and chocolates|
from checkouts at larger stores, in 1994. Photograph: Robert Convery/Alamy
The UK's largest retailer, Tesco, is to ban sweets and chocolates from its checkouts after a survey of customers showed overwhelming support for the move.
Research for Tesco found that 65% of shoppers wanted confectionery removed from checkouts to help them make healthier choices when shopping. Even more (67%) said it would help them choose healthier options for their children.
Tesco removed sweets and chocolates from checkouts at its 740 larger Tesco stores 20 years ago, but they will now be removed from checkouts at all stores, including 1,800 Tesco Metro and Express convenience stores in Britain and Ireland. The retailer committed to removing them by the end of December 2014, but has brought forward the move after surveying its customers.
Its chief executive, Philip Clarke, said the decision followed a commitment to make soft drinks, sandwiches and ready meals healthier by changing the recipes to reduce their sugar, salt and fat content. "We all know how easy it is to be tempted by sugary snacks at the checkout, and we want to help our customers lead healthier lives," Clarke said.
Tesco was the first British supermarket to remove sweets and chocolates from checkouts at larger stores, in 1994. The retailer will now test a variety of healthier products at checkouts before implementing the full change across all stores.
|A self-service checkout in a branch of Tesco on Goodge Street,|
London. Photograph: Alamy
In January, Lidl banned confectionary from the checkout at all 600 of its British stores after surveying parents. It replaced racks of sweets with dried and fresh fruit, oatcakes and juices.
Health campaigners and parents' groups welcomed Tesco's move. Katie O'Donovan of Mumsnet said: "Popping into a shop with a small child in tow can sometimes feel like navigating an assault course. If you've made it to the checkout in one piece it can be really frustrating to then be faced with an unhealthy array of sweets designed to tempt your child. It's really positive to see a supermarket responding to the views of their customers and trying to make life that little bit easier."
Ben Reynolds of the food and health charity Sustain agreed. "Parents will be delighted to hear that they will no longer be pestered for fatty, salty and sugary snacks while queuing at the checkout in their local Tesco. We hope that other supermarkets will now follow Lidl and Tesco's lead, and realise that taking action to improve children's health is not something to fear."
Tesco was among those criticised in research published in January which found that convenience stores run by big supermarket chains involved in the government's responsibility deal on nutrition were exposing children to displays of sweets and snack food at the checkout.
Researchers from Sheffield University visited the smaller stores of Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco in the city and discovered what harassed parents often complain of – that the queue for the checkout often passes shelves laden with chocolate bars, drinks and sweet snacks at children's eye level.