Supermarkets doing little to encourage healthy choices: study
Supermarkets are still doing too little to encourage their customers to make healthy choices. Despite numerous health agreements, four out of five products in advertising brochures fall outside the 'Schijf van Vijf' - the Dutch guideline for a healthy diet, according to a study by Questionmark into the range of eight supermarket chains in the Netherlands, the Volkskrant reports.
According to the researchers, it's not all bad when it comes to supermarket assortment. Coop adapted all its in store recipes to fit into the Schijf van Vijf, Aldi is marketing carrots, apples and skimmed milk at children, Dirk stores no longer have sweets at the check out, and Lidl promoted no sugary sodas in kids packaging in the research period.
But that does not detract from the main finding in the report: "In all supermarkets, the range largely falls outside the Schijf van Vijf." According to the Nutrition Center, for a healthy diet 85 percent of energy intake must come from the Schijf van Vijf. Ekoplaza comes closes to that, with about half of its range qualifying as healthy.
After Ekoplaza, Lidl, Dirk and Coop also seem to be tending towards more healthy choices. Market leader Albert Heijn is in the bottom three, along with Aldi and Plus. Jumbo, the second largest supermarket chain in the country, is in he middle. Together, the eight studies supermarkets hold 80 percent of the market share in the Netherlands.
According to Questionmark, supermarkets always show their good side in reports on social responsibility. But their real face can be seen in their advertisements. The researchers studied 64 advertising brochures in a period of two months. 63 of them contained sugary drinks. Lidl scored best here, with a meager 25 percent healthy products in its advertisements.
And then the healthiness of those products are still questionable. According to Questionmark, 59 percent of all the products that can fall in the Schijf van Vijf don't meet the guidelines. Things like bread, crackers, cheese, pasta and legumes often don't meet the guidelines for saturated fat, sugars, salt or fiber.
Mark Jansen, director of supermarkets' association CBL, told the Volkskrant that Questionmark largely ignored all the progress supermarkets made over the past 15 years. The sugar, fat and salt content of thousands of products were reduced, as per the Agreement Improvement Product Composition 2014-2020, marketing to children is being phased out as per the National Prevention Agreement 2018, and customers are immediately confronted with the healthy fruit and vegetable department in most stores, he said.
According to Jansen, Questionmark is deliberately choosing to see the negative. He called the research agency an advice council consisting of scientific 'world improvers', according to the newspaper.
Responsible State Secretary Paul Blokhuis of Public Health told the newspaper hat he takes this study seriously and shares the concerns about healthy choices. "More needs to be done to make the healthy choice easier in supermarkets," he said. He announced that the progress on the Prevention Agreement will henceforth be independently monitored, and that public health institute RIVM will investigate whether further measures are needed.