Sainsbury’s has topped the supermarket league table for its health and sustainability commitments, according to The Food Foundation’s inaugural report.
The first ever annual report analysing the State of the Nation’s Food Industry has identified Britain’s best and worst performing supermarkets, caterers and restaurant chains in its league table of what businesses are doing to promote healthy, sustainable food.
Other supermarkets which have been praised for their health and sustainability efforts include Lidl and Tesco, while Morrisons and Asda have been singled out as needing more work.
The report focuses on obesity-related health concerns and the impact of modern food production and eating habits on the environment, calling for a legally enforced framework of health and sustainability targets across the food industry.
The most proactive retailers are already working towards targets which allow them to measure their progress, although fewer than half of the major supermarkets currently report their sales of healthier foods, sales of fruit and vegetables, or sales of animal and plant-based proteins.
Sainsbury’s is the only supermarket to report on all three of these metrics.
The Food Foundation is now calling on the government to introduce a mandatory scheme for all large UK food businesses to report on sales of fruit and vegetables, sales of high fat salt and sugar foods, plant and meat-based proteins, and the amount of unsold food which is thrown away.
Aldi, Co-op, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose were among the 16 food companies who backed the move and signed a joint statement calling for sales-based food reporting to be made mandatory.
Sainsbury’s head of healthy and sustainable diets, Nilani Sritharan, said: “We know that the way we eat has a direct impact on the world around us and through our brand mission, Helping Everyone Eat Better, we are committed to helping our customers eat better for both their health and that of the planet.
“We have a long-standing mission to drive healthier sales and have been able to do so by implementing targets that our senior management is responsible for. This is why we believe that setting mandatory targets on simple health and sustainability metrics will allow us to collaborate across the industry, identifying key areas of improvement, to support healthier and more sustainable business transformation.”
The report also highlights the need for supermarkets to give more support to low-income families. Only Sainsbury’s and Iceland currently promote the government’s Healthy Start scheme, while the widening gap between the cost of healthy and unhealthy foods means that healthy foods are typically three times more expensive per calorie.
Food businesses also need to address the imbalance in advertising, with fruit and vegetable promotion receiving just 1% of marketing spend.
The Food Foundation’s senior business and investor engagement manager, Rebecca Tobi, said: “The need for food businesses to address the twin issues of diet-related ill health and the climate crisis is more urgent than ever.
“If we are to meet government’s Net Zero commitments on climate change and reverse the downward trajectory of the nation’s health, it is imperative that food businesses recognise their responsibility.”