Grocery store chain Lidl has taken an unprecedented step in favour of healthy eating. As of January 2014, the German-owned Lidl banned junk food and sugary treats from all the checkout aisles of its 600 stores in the United Kingdom. The decision was made in response to surveys, which revealed that 7 out of 10 parents would choose a treat-free checkout if given the choice.
Lidl surveyed 1,294 customers during 2013 as part of its “Healthy Checkouts” initiative, gradually adding one or two treat-free tills to each store to see if it would work. It did, with the treat-free tills receiving a surprising 20 percent more business than the ones with displayed treats.
Sixty-eight percent of surveyed parents said their kids pester them every time they go through the checkout. Two-thirds of parents admitted to giving in and buying treats for kids, the cost of which can add up to an estimated £20-40 ($33-67 USD) a month. Sixty-one percent said they would like supermarkets to offer healthier snacks at checkouts, and only 5 percent disagreed.
No doubt some readers will blame it on poor parenting, but even the strictest parents occasionally have to contend with tantrums in the checkout aisle. As the mother of a two- and four-year-old, I have an absolute zero tolerance policy on buying treats in the checkout and a track record of never giving in, but my kids still persist in asking because those treats – right at eye level – are so irresistible. I do get tired of always saying no. It would be nice to say “yes” once in a while and be able to grab something healthy to keep my kids occupied while I finish packing up the groceries.
Thanks to Lidl’s decision, that’s now possible in the United Kingdom. Chocolate bars and candy have been ousted by dried and fresh fruit, oatcakes, fruit juice (still not ideal, but better than soda and energy drinks), nuts, and seeds. As managing director Ronny Gottschlich said:
“We’re the first supermarket to take such a bold step. We’re committed not only to raising awareness of the importance of balanced diets and healthy lifestyles, but also to making it easier for our customers to follow them. We know how difficult it can be to say no to pester power, so by removing sweets and chocolates from our tills we can make it easier for parents to reward children in healthier ways.”
Here’s to hoping that grocery stores in the U.S. and Canada will follow suit. Everyone, not just children, could benefit from less inundation by junk food.