Tesco bans checkout confectionery across UK

Jessica Morris, special to

U.K. supermarket Tesco has pledged to remove checkout confectionery from all of its stores before the end of 2014, amid rising concern over its impact on the health and well-being of customers.

While the retailer does not have sweets and chocolates by the checkouts of its larger stores, this will be extended to all stores, including Tesco Metro and Express convenience stores.

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Around two-thirds of shoppers said that removing checkout confectionery would help them make healthier choices when grocery shopping, according to customer research conducted by Tesco.

"We're doing this now because our customers have told us that removing sweets and chocolates from checkouts will help them make healthier choices" Phillip Clarke, chief executive at Tesco said in a statement.

'Pester power'

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Eye-level sweets, crisps and chocolates at tills tempt children, meaning parents are often subjected to "pester power".

And according to Tesco's research around 67 percent of parents said the move would help them to make healthier choices for their children.

"It can be really frustrating to … be faced with an unhealthy array of sweets designed to tempt your child", Katie O'Donovan from parenting website Mumsnet said in a statement.

Tesco has 'a lot more to do': Pro

A number of U.K. health and consumer groups alike have long campaigned for the removal of sweets, chocolate and other high-sugar foods from the tills of supermarkets.

Linda Hindle from the British Dietetic Association said in a statement: "The 'pester power' at retail checkouts can lead to unplanned calories and contribute towards poor diet and health".

The groups are particularly worried about how the marketing of confectionery affects obesity levels in the U.K.

Dr Patricia Mucavele, head of nutrition at the Children's Food Trust, told CNBC via email: "In England, one in four children by reception (aged 4-5) are currently overweight or obese and this rises to one in three children by the time they reach Year 6 (aged 10) at school. Confectionery and sugary drinks are the main source of sugar intake in children".

Now they hope that other supermarkets will follow Tesco's all-out ban.

"We welcome [the move] very much but we think it's overdue. Now it's come we hope that all supermarkets will follow Tesco", Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum told CNBC in a telephone interview.

Other supermarkets

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Earlier this year budget grocer Lidl removed all sweets and chocolates from its checkouts.

"Not only have we had exceptionally warm feedback to this move from the public but we have also experienced an increase in turnover of the fresh fruit, nuts and fruit juices that are now in place at our checkouts," a spokesperson for Lidl told CNBC via email.

While health concerns are an important factor, the rise of different shopping channels means that the value of checkout confectionery is likely to decline anyway, according to an analyst.

"We could see other supermarkets follow suit and one of the reasons why is the role of confectionery at the checkout is reducing" David Gray, retail analyst at PlanetRetail told CNBC in a telephone interview.

He said that the impact on sales will be limited because customers increasingly shop using e-commerce or self-checkout tills. As these grow in popularity they will reduce the opportunity for 'impulse categories' such as checkout confectionery.