Retailers need to reduce their store’s dependency on “unhealthy” lines such as confectionery and alcohol and increase investment in healthy products to protect their community reputation, experts have warned.

Consumption of high-sugar products increases 60% due to promotions, with unhealthy items twice as likely to go on promotion, a report by consulting firm Oliver Wyman has revealed.

It adds that “the reputational risk to retailers is real” and that store owners need to reduce promotions in the category as the government ramps up its bid to tackle obesity.

A recent study by City University also blamed the convenience sector, alongside fast food outlets, for contributing to the undermining of government efforts to promote healthier foods in schools.

“It’s very important to start changing the entire food system and that means convenience stores and newsagents. Those making money from selling sweets, chocolate and foods less desirable for health need to rethink their business model,” said professor Tim Lang, director of the Centre for Food Policy at City University. “Could the local corner store become the fruit and vegetable market for weekly shops, which has worked in other countries such as Brazil?”

Retail consultant David Gilroy said wholesalers are trying hard to get fresh to work in independent stores, but retailers are not investing enough in the equipment and resources they need.

“The industry must reposition its product ranges,” he said. “All the categories currently driving the business are perceived as ‘bad’ by consumers: tobacco, soft drinks, confectionery, alcohol, crisps and snacks. Moves must be taken to reduce dependency in these areas as the future for them is far from certain.”

Retail Newsagent’s special report this week highlights retailers who have found a variety of ways to make their stores healthier, with retailers stating those who don’t stock healthy foods and snacks are in danger of losing customers.

Joe Williams, of The Village Store in Hook Norton, said: “The way the market is going means if you aren’t stocking healthy produce you’re losing out on sales and money.”