Tesco’s Candy Eviction

U.K. grocer bans sweets at the checkouts of all its supermarkets, c-stores

LONDON -- It’s been 20 years since Tesco first removed sweets from the checkouts at some of its larger stores, but a move at the new year extended that initiative to all of its locations across the U.K., including at c-stores.

The change—first announced last May and enacted Jan. 1—comes from data from its Tesco ClubCard that reveals families with young children have, on average, the least healthy shopping baskets.

“Our customers told us that removing sweets and chocolates from checkouts would help them make healthier choices, so from today our checkouts will be sweet- and chocolate-free zones,” said David Wood, managing director of health and wellness for Tesco, upon announcement of the news. “We hope this will make our customer’s lives easier, as taking sweets and chocolates off the checkouts will really help parents with young children.”

The initiative includes all Tesco Metro and Express convenience stores, which number about 2,000 across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. A spokesperson told the Daily Mail that confectionery would also be removed from areas adjacent to the checkout, such as secondary racks of sweets at children’s eye level.

“The response we’ve had from parents has been overwhelmingly positive, so it’ll be interesting to see if other supermarkets follow our lead and do the same thing,” said Wood.

In fact, fellow grocers Lidl and Aldi have also banned sweets from its checkouts.

An earlier study by Tesco found 65% of customers said removing confectionery from checkouts would help them make healthier choices; 67% of parents said confectionery-free checkouts would help them make healthier choices for their children.

So what’s been put in its place? All sweets and chocolate have been replaced by better-for-you snacks such as dried fruits, nuts and bars. Every item will either “be one of your five a day, have no ‘red’ traffic light ratings, be in calorie-controlled snack packs, or be deemed by the Department of Health to be a ‘healthier snack,’ ” according to a statement released by the company. The displays prominently tell shoppers that they are “sweet-free checkouts.”

Retail consultant Gerald Lewis questions whether the move is for the benefit of consumers, or “part of a PR campaign to get favorable coverage to counteract the very negative reporting of their self-generated financial issues and the management turmoil that these have brought about.”

Lewis also points out that due to the high population density in the U.K., retailers are more concerned about fast transactions than extra impulse buys. “I don’t think that removing candy there would be as big a deal as doing so here, and I doubt if Tesco’s move will have much influence on U.S. supermarkets.”