During Sugar Awareness Week 2017 (30th October - 5th November) we are urging retailers to sell high sugar products responsibly, that is, not as part of price promotions such as meal deals. Not only does the evidence indicate that higher sugar food and drink items are more likely to be promoted and more deeply promoted, but that price promotions increase the overall volume of food and drink taken home.
To add to this evidence and to coincide with Sugar Awareness Week we released new data to show that certain meal deal combinations contain a staggering 30 teaspoons of sugar. From the meal deals surveyed, the combination containing the highest amount of sugar was from WHSmith which includes a sandwich plus the option of a Mountain Dew Citrus Blast 500ml drink and a bag of Skittles Crazy Sours, which contains an extraordinary 118.9g of sugar - which is more than four times an adult's daily maximum of 'free' sugars intake (30g / 7 tsp) in just a single lunch! In fact, if someone was to consume this meal deal over a working week, this would equate to a whopping 150 teaspoons of sugar; more than a 1lb bag of sugar!
Another combo containing a shocking 30 teaspoons of sugar is Tesco Smokehouse Pulled Chicken with Mesquite Style Sauce with a Monster Energy 500ml drink and Mars Duo - that's the same amount of sugar found in approximately 16 double chocolate mini muffins. Morrisons' Sweet Chilli Chicken Wrap with Relentless Passion Punch Energy 500ml drink and a Morrisons' Millionaire Shortbread is not far behind, with 28 teaspoons of sugar and 1048 kcal.
Whilst the findings reveal that low sugar meal deal options are possible, with some combinations containing less than one teaspoon of sugar, the majority of retailers are failing to promote healthy choices to their consumers. 72% of meal deal drinks sold at Morrisons are high in sugar per serving compared to 38% at M&S, which offers the lowest percentage of high sugar drinks. Some drinks alone contain up to 70g of sugar and are frequently offered in 500ml portions, which equates to two servings, despite being sold as part of a lunch meal.
As well as excluding high sugar drinks from meal deals, if retailers really want to support consumers in making healthy choices they should also consider not offering any other high sugar products, plus high salt and saturated fat options as part of meal deals and increase the range of healthier choices.
It is time the government ensured that price promotions, including meal deals, are geared towards healthier options. The government has been running scared of the food industry for far too long, having slashed taking action on price promotions from the Childhood Obesity Plan. Even the Government's ex-advisor a few years back clearly stated we exhausted the voluntary approach of tackling price promotions, we now need regulations.
Tips for choosing healthier meal deals:
- Use the FoodSwitch UK app to find healthier choices - simply scan the barcode of your regular brand to get colour coded nutrition information and see a list of healthier alternatives. You can use the SugarSwitch filter to find products lower in sugar!
- Choose products with front of pack traffic light colours - pick products that are amber or green for sugar, salt and saturated fat
- Choose fruit or vegetables for the snack option
- Choose water or sugar-free drinks or smaller portions of fruit juice or smoothie for the drink option
Join the conversation @Actiononsugar #SugarAwarenessWeek #whatisthedeal