Asda unveils healthier eating campaign

Related tags Asda Nutrition

The UK's number two supermarket Asda will spend £17 million
(€24.3m) on reducing the prices of its healthy food range in a
major initiative to promote consumer health.

Retailers in the UK have come under significant pressure from the government in recent months to make their products more nutritious and help contribute to the health of the nation by reducing diet-related disease.

The leading chains have all attempted to demonstrate that they offer a range of healthy products, with most unveiling new schemes or products this month to coincide with New Year resolutions for healthier eating and weight loss.

Whether the retail schemes influence UK health in the long term remains to be seen but improving the nutritional content of the most popular products will be welcomed by the government's food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency, which has urged lower salt and fat.

Asda, owned by retail giant Wal-Mart, is known to be strong on low prices and value but is not often associated with health. Last month the National Consumer Council gave the supermarket chain three out of 10 in a report on British retailers' health offering, attacking the high salt levels in Asda's processed meals.

Asda's price cuts will be targeted at lower income families whose restricted purchasing power tends to result in less healthy diets.

Last year a report from children's charity NCH found that it costs significantly more to eat healthily in the UK. A large basket of 'healthy' food - costing just over £25 - was almost a fifth more expensive than its unhealthy equivalent at just over £21. Since 1989 the cost of the healthy shopping basket has increased by 50 per cent while the unhealthy option has risen by just a third, said the charity.

As well as reducing prices, Asda will double the size of the Good For You! healthy range that includes brands like Evian water and Weight Watchers ready meals, to more than 400 products, and it has also reformulated hundreds of its Smartprice economy products to remove sugar, salt and fat.

The group will also spend £7 million on a health promotion campaign using TV and press advertising and offer its 12 million customers free health checks by in its stores.

Angela Spindler, trading and marketing director at Asda, said: "Our customer health pledge is the most comprehensive ever seen in British retail."

Adult obesity rates in the UK have almost quadrupled in the last 25 years, with 22 per cent of Britons obese and three-quarters overweight. Obesity is linked to many health problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and arthritis.

The number of obese children has also escalated and 10 per cent of six year olds are now obese.

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