Should supermarkets promote healthy eating
British Supermarkets are under constant pressure to uphold their consumer’s expectations, and at the moment healthy eating is a big issue. Consumers are changing their tastes towards the “healthier” options. This demand is putting pressure on the supermarkets to change their products and to compete against each other to make their product range healthier. Today the population in Britain is becoming more and more overweight and the number of clinically obese people in Britain has doubled in the past decade. 47 percent of men and 33 percent of women are overweight, and nearly a quarter of both sexes are obese.
Weight problems seem to be starting at an increasingly young age. In a recent study of Leeds school children, 20% of nine year olds and a third of 11 year old girls were overweight. One in ten of the primary school children in the study were obese. * This is mainly due to the emphasis of unhealthy and fattening foods, such as cakes, crisps and chocolate. Obesity can have a very bad impact on your health. It takes an average, nine years off an individual’s life expectancy, and is an increased health risk.
The major health problems caused by obesity are diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, respiratory disease, cancer, osteoarthritis and psychological problems. It results in 30,000 deaths a year. Obesity also causes high economic costs to the country. In England, the estimated annual financial cost of obesity is i?? 0. 5 billion in treatment costs to the National Health Service. Another problem caused by obesity in Britain is the loss of days work due to it, it is estimated that 18 million sick days are taken in a year. *
Unbalanced diets containing “unhealthy” foods can also lead to many other health problems. One of these is high cholesterol. Foods from animals such as egg yolks and whole milk dairy products contain it. * The body makes all the cholesterol it needs, so people don’t need to consume it. Saturated fatty acids are the main culprit in raising blood cholesterol, which increases your risk of heart disease. The government needs to ensure that people are made aware of the foods with high cholesterol and they need to be encouraged to by healthy food.
Cholesterol problems can cause the national health services to loose a lot of valuable time, which could have been avoided. High cholesterol results in many heart attacks and these people need to be hospitalised. Another problem is that foods seem to be containing very high amounts of salt. In most cases the labelling is very small and it is hard to recognise the salt content. However, this is very important because too much salt can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is the main cause of strokes and a major cause of heart attacks, which are two of the most common causes of death and illness in the UK.
To prevent adverse health effects consensus action is being taken on salt and people are being made aware of salt content by introducing new labelling. Another substance that is classed as “unhealthy” is caffeine, which occurs naturally in foods and beverages. It is known to be a potent stimulant of the central nervous system. It is found in popular food and drink such as coffee, cola and chocolate. It can cause people to become over stimulated and they could have side effects such as insomnia, anxiety, irritability and diarrhoea. *
Food with additives in can also be classed as “unhealthy”; this is due to the connection to hyperactivity. E numbers seem to be affecting children and have connections with behaviour problems. Additives can also cause digestive disorders, nervous disorders, respiratory problems and skin problems such as, diarrhoea, insomnia, asthma and rashes. * “Unhealthy” foods that contain lots of sugar, such as sweets and chocolate are also very bad for us. They decay our teeth and this leads to fillings, which take up valuable time and money for the national health.
Supermarkets, such as Asda have rows of sweets lined up at the checkouts and this is therefore encouraging consumers to buy them. It is a very clever lay out to encourage consumers to buy the sweet and to catch the eye of children. It is also common to find chocolate and other sweet products at the end of isles so that customers have to walk past them and this convenience of not going down an isle becomes tempting.
So the customer puts the chocolate in the trolley. The government is trying to encourage everyone to eat more healthily now to help eliminate the problem of obesity. Healthy” food is thought of as a merit good. This means that the government will encourage it because will benefit Britain in many ways, including economically. As the demand for merit goods is unrelated to price, it can exceed supply. Marginal social cost and benefit can be used to show this. In the diagram below the consumption of “healthy foods” is OA and the efficient level of consumption is OB. This means that the country would benefit more if more “healthy food” was consumed. AB represents the difference.
The government should encourage healthier eating for everyone, because the benefits of doing so are recognised to outweigh the costs. Supermarkets play a big role in what kind of food we eat. This is why supermarkets have introduced new healthy ranges of food. For example Sainsbury’s has a new range of food with the slogan “Be good to yourself” and Tesco’s are introducing new food labels that rank a product according to its position on the glycemic index, a system that measures the effects of food on blood sugar levels. * Supermarkets need to be encouraged to be more socially responsible.
This means that they should consider everyone before making a decision or selling a new good. In this case supermarkets should look at the bigger picture and weigh out the costs and benefits of promoting healthy foods. The benefits being, preventing health problems, which is what we have just been talking about. However there are many costs that should also be considered. Firstly, a big cost to the supermarkets is the cost of advertising healthy eating. This is usually the highest cost for a business because television adverts can be millions of pounds.
Another cost might be that the healthy eating promotion could flop and consumers may go elsewhere to do their shopping. This would cause the supermarkets revenue to decrease. However, the supermarkets are in an oligopoly, which means that there are only a few main supermarkets. Therefore, they have control over their customers and there is hardly anywhere else they can do their shopping without having to visit lots of different shops. Supermarkets have a big advantage because they have everything all under one roof unlike other shops.
Another cost would be to the producers of fatty foods. If the supermarkets promoted healthy eating these producers would lose revenue and they might go out of business. The supermarkets also have to take into account their stakeholders. It is important that they keep the stakeholders happy because if they are happy the supermarket can maintain a good reputation. However, if the supermarket lose revenue, then the stakeholders will not be happy and will take their business elsewhere. A good reputation will increase shareholder value and encourage more people to invest in the company.
If Britain’s supermarkets do more to promote healthy eating, there are not only benefits to consumers and the national health but also to the supermarkets themselves. The main benefit to the supermarket is higher revenue. Because, by promoting the healthy food consumers are encouraged to buy the goods. Also because the new “healthy” products are not standard goods found in every supermarket higher profit margins can be set. There is no comparison on these goods because they can only be bought in one supermarket.
Also, promoting healthy eating would boost the company’s reputation and it would be thought of as having very good social responsibility. Therefore, from weighing out all the costs and benefits, I can conclude that supermarkets in Britain should be urged to do more to promote healthy eating. This is because the benefits outweigh the costs. Healthy eating will reduce the number of health problems dramatically and this would save doctors and surgeons a great deal of time, which is valuable. It will also save dentists time, due to less sugary foods and therefore less cavities to be filled.
Another advantage is to the supermarkets themselves, because with new products consumers will increase their demand and thus causing the supermarket revenue to increase. This means that as well as the consumers being happy; the stakeholders of the supermarkets will also be pleased. This helps the supermarkets to gain a good reputation and prestige. By promoting healthy eating the supermarkets are becoming socially responsible and they will be “looking after” their customers. It will be a change for the better, for everyone!