I had an interesting conversation with a senior executive this week.The finger of blame for the UK’s growing problem with obesity, he said, is “being pointed clearly at independent convenience retailers”.
In an announcement that the NHS will introduce a tax on sugary drinks and snacks in its hospitals by 2020, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens took the opportunity to accuse retailers of “fuelling” the obesity crisis.
He criticised buy-one-get-one-free offers on sweets and displays of unhealthy products at tillpoints, and singled out shops in deprived areas for encouraging more sugar consumption.
At the end of last year, Manchester retailer Sunita Kanji told me that sugary products are what sell in her local area. Her customers aren’t interested in healthier lines. And she told us for our front page story this week that the healthier soft drinks she has on offer are priced too highly for her customers’ pockets.
Education is what is needed, she said – a sentiment echoed by retailers and convenience industry figures.
I hope education is the focus when the Government releases its childhood obesity strategy in the coming months, rather than ‘easy’ taxes and red tape.
Blaming shopkeepers, wrapping them in red tape and adding more pressure to their already-tight margins is not the answer.