One Multinational Grocery Retailer Just Made a Moral Decision to Put Health...

One Multinational Grocery Retailer Just Made a Moral Decision to Put Health Before Profits

By Laurie David, producer of Fed Up • Originally posted on Huffington Post

Something revolutionary happened last week and you probably didn’t hear about it. Tesco, a multinational grocery retailer — the second largest in the world — made a moral decision to protect its customers that guaranteed it would lose money. A supermarket behemoth with over six thousand stores, Tesco made an across the board business decision to move all the candy from its checkout counters. Wow. “We all know how easy it is to be tempted by sugary snacks at the checkout, and we want to help our customers lead healthier lives,” said chief exec Philip Clarke. “We’re doing this now because our customers have told us that removing sweets and chocolates from checkouts will help them make healthier choices.”

While consumers have been lulled into something of a food fog, junk food and beverage companies have a very clear agenda. They’re on a decades long mission to fill your every site line with addictive, sugary products because their market research shows that just seeing these items will trigger a response in your brain that will result in a impulse purchase. As Dr. David Kessler describes in the new film FED UP, these items “literally hijack your brain.” More poignantly, twelve year-old Wesley from FED UP tells us, “you see it, you want it.”

The candy and junk food lining the register is making us sick, it’s undermining the health of the entire country. Its rendering young adults unfit for military service, it’s clogging our hospitals, it’s infecting children with serious adult diseases.

Which brings us back to companies like Tesco and Canada’s Indigo Books – both of which are changing their business models to protect the health of their customers. Heather Reisman, the owner of Indigo Books served as an executive producer on FED UP and after watching several cuts, she made an executive decision to remove all the confections from the cash registers of her 300 bookstores. Tesco and Indigo acknowledge a responsibility to their customer that goes beyond the one transaction. CVS, America’s largest drugstore chain seemed to be thinking along these lines too when it announced it would stop selling cigarettes citing its commitment to public health. That plan was rightfully praised, but a stroll through any CVS will reveal the much larger health threat is the massive amount of candy, chips and soda prominently displayed down every aisle of its drugstores.

Not all calories are created equal and the calories at the cash register are some of the worst. Dr. David S. Ludwig, Professor of Pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School and a Professor of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health published a report just two weeks ago in the peer respected journal, JAMA, making the strongest scientific argument yet for why all calories are not equal, which is the foundational argument of FED UP. Arguing that all calories are the same has become a mantra for food and beverage companies. Coke spent millions last year on TV commercials selling the idea: “A calorie is a calorie, so make some of yours a coke!” That was their heartfelt contribution to helping solve America’s obesity epidemic.

As Tesco and Indigo Books lead the way, it’s a bold challenge to all the CEOs of retail businesses everywhere that carry candy, chips and other junk at their cash register, to consider your responsibility to the customer, to children, and weigh your conscious against your quarterly profits. Don’t be the last company to do the right thing. The world needs leadership in the fight against obesity, and your leadership can save lives.

Laurie David is producer of FED UP, a 2014 film that features Food Revolution Summit speakers Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Robert Lustig. Check out the film here.


  1. Great, a step in the right direction. Next step is to move them all the way out to the dustbins out the back. Then do the same with all the sugary breakfast cereal that tell lies on the box about "natural", "healthy" etc. We were never fooled.

  2. It's a drop in the ocean. I've just returned from Asia from Asia where Tesco is prominent. The remainder of the products they stock is rather toxic from my point of view. Keep moving in the right direction, you have a long way to go

  3. I don't know that I would describe sweets as a 'much larger health threat' than cigarettes. It is possible to eat sugar in moderation without harm. The same cannot be said of cigarettes.

  4. I agree, Kara, not necessarily as big a health problem as cigarettes, but reasonable evidence that people do become "addicted" to sugar and alter their food choices…either way, bloody helpful for mums who get harassed at the checkout by their kids!

  5. Wow! That is wonderful news from both Tesco and Indigo Books. The tide is changing and people and business that contribute to poor health in this country are getting it. As a natural health provider, I am so pleased with these companies and their CEO'S. Bravo to Philip Clarke and Heather Reisman.

  6. I'm still sceptical about this, although I do welcome it fully. It follows a string of issues for Tescos like the horsemeat scandal (see, the damaging Tuna scandal (see as well as growing accusations that they are a major source of obesity here in the UK. So it makes sense for them to do a small gesture for some positive PR for once. If taking steps forward like this becomes a regular thing then perhaps I'll feel it more sincere. What would have been nicer is if they replaced the candy at checkout with fresh produce as a reminder? Instead of grabbing M&Ms at checkout, people could grab some strawberries or mango! What about putting a healthy alternative wherever you're going to sell something known to be a problem food? Keep it coming, Tescos!

  7. This is a UK operation and there are also Tesco stores in the U.S., but none in Canada as far as I can determine. If there was a Tesco store in Ontario, I'd shop there. Maybe others will follow their example.

  8. This article is a very important reminder of consumer responsibility. The comments their customers made was a factor in this decision. We all have a responsibility. We each have a mouth and we have to use it!
    Obviously, it is critical to stop the bombardment of junk food. It's just about every where you look. So I know this is a big step, a good step. Are they in Europe? I wonder if they sell GM products. Let's keep moving forward.

  9. Whoop-de-do! I do not understand why the natural/clean eating community gets so excited over stuff like this. If they want to tickle my fancy they need to grow a set and BAN the items for sale in their stores period. They will never do that though, they would lose too much money. Moving candy to the candy aisle is not something that gets me excited, sorry. Just knowing what is in the candy and how the chocolate is sourced is enough to keep me from buying it!

  10. Of course it has very little to do with "concern for our health" and very much to do with favourable media exposure. This decision was likely the result of a meeting to discover ways to increase their PR rating after they realised their business model is failing due to customer concern regarding processed "food".

  11. yes good.we don't touch. all these Garbage and glad.. that one co made that decision.. I am 83 and ad touch any foods in these Store ther are all over.. the world lot ti catch up but.. great to see that it is coming and. the..Pills. Drug not for us thank real poison.

  12. This is awesome news. It takes only a small percentage of the big stores to start stepping up and doing what's best for the country. One step at a time thanks again

  13. Would be good if it was new news but Tescos in Britain has had no sweets at the check outs for a few years now.
    Mind there are still enough high calorie sugary treats available throughout the shop.

  14. Candy already has it's own dedicated isle. I am tired of the check out made to be the temper tantrum isle. If stores really cared about their shoppers impression of their store. They would make it easier on the haggard parent on the last leg of the shop before sticker shock hits them.

  15. awesome work, about time TESCO and INDIGO made an excellent decision. We need more retailers to follow, and this is a great example. Heather Reisman will become a hero, after all I go to buy books, and not junk food to Indigo. This will make me want to be a repeat client. I avoid places that bombard me with junk drinks and the junk food. We need more education from elementary to universities of how to read labels, and what the ingredients are in everything. Let's start a Healthy food revolution, to save lives and the planet:)

  16. Tescos are under pressure from the discounters Aldi and Lidl, sales are falling and so they come up with this garbage. Their stores are full of high calorie food and instead of just lowering their prices, they dupe customers to returning with money off coupons. It's about financial gain and has nothing to do with our health., They are trying to claw back lost Revenue, nothing more.

  17. blablabla. us hardcore sugarholics will walk to the back door to get the goods. move em where ever ya want. for me, it will change nothing. it would be "moral" to remove the antibiotic-riddled meat and the chemicals in all the other "food" they sell. this here is a publicity stunt.

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