Superlist UK Health 2021

British supermarkets and the promotion of unhealthy food

For Superlist UK Health we've tracked all promotions of food products in the online stores of the four biggest UK supermarkets - Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco. We have analysed the health profile of these products, using the UK Government’s Nutrient Profiling Model, which assesses whether products are high in fat, sugar and/or salt (HFSS) and found that UK supermarkets are heavily promoting unhealthy food and drink products in their online stores. 

Opportunity to show leadership

Food companies play a key role in tackling obesity and other diet-related diseases. Our diets are shaped by our food environments, including what food options are available, accessible and affordable to consumers. In order to encourage healthier eating and introduce a level playing field for retailers, the UK Government is introducing legislation in the autumn of 2022 restricting in-store and online marketing of High Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS) food and drink products. Ahead of such changes, the findings from Superlist UK Health 2021 show that there is vast room for companies to show leadership in this area by using promotional techniques outside the legislation to support better diets.

Heavy promotion of unhealthy food

Supermarkets are not using their promotional tools to improve people’s diets. Across all four supermarkets, approximately half of all promotions are focused on HFSS food and drink products. Though forthcoming restrictions will ban the most harmful types among these promotions, it leaves ample room for supermarkets to take individual responsibility for healthy eating.


The full research method can be found here. This document has been written in collaboration with our partner ShareAction and in consultation with Public Health England.

Superlist UK has been made possible by a financial contribution from the Swedish Postcode Foundation.

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