ACS chief executive James Lowman

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has committed to continuing to support local shops in offering healthy options to customers and communities across the UK.

The move follows publication of the National Food Strategy, led by Henry Dimbleby, which calls for reform of the food system to help the environment, the health of UK consumers, and the NHS.

Recommendations made in the strategy include:

  • a new ‘community eatwell’ programme which would involve GPs prescribing fruit and veg to people on lower incomes;
  • expanding the financial eligibility for Healthy Start vouchers;
  • a new tax set at £3/kg for sugar and £6/kg for salt sold wholesale for use in processed foods;
  • a requirement on all food companies with more than 250 employees to publish an annual report on a wide range of metrics.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We are committed to playing our part in meeting the challenges outlined in the National Food Strategy. Convenience retailers are actively increasing fresh foods in their stores and changing their offer to meet consumer needs, and it is important that this continues given our reach into so many communities.

“Promoting the Healthy Start Scheme is one of the simplest and most effective ways for local shops to support healthy eating, and we encourage every store to do this.”

However, he warned: “The government needs to clearly set out its plan for tackling obesity before taking on further recommendations for a sugar and salt levy. Our sector is already at the sharp end of a raft of regulatory interventions like restrictions on promotions and locating products in their stores that will be extremely costly. We now have two quite different mechanisms and the government should pause and bring together a coherent plan in its white paper.”

Retailers are currently waiting for confirmation of details on regulations regarding the location and promotion of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products in store. There is still uncertainty about the number of retailers that will be affected, with just months to go until the regulations are due to come into force.