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Tesco urged by investors to sell more healthy food

·2 min read
tesco
tesco

A group of investors is trying to pressure Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket, into selling healthier food and drink amid a growing obesity problem.

Investors led by pressure group ShareAction will ask shareholders to vote for their plan.

Tesco is due to hold its annual meeting in the summer.

The company insists that it already has a plan to make healthy and sustainable food available.

The UK has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world and obesity increases the risk of hospitalisation and death from a coronavirus infection, according to Public Health England.

If the investor group is successful, it will force Tesco to reveal more about the share of sales it makes on healthier food, and publish annual updates on how well it is improving that share.

The investors says rivals Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer have made similar commitments to selling healthier food and that Tesco, with a UK market share of just under 27%, should follow suit.

Ignacio Vazquez, senior manager at ShareAction, said: "As the UK's largest food retailer, Tesco's actions are of systemic importance in tackling obesity. But its prime market position has not yet translated into leadership on this critical issue.

"We hope that Tesco's board will endorse the resolution and grasp the opportunity to help build a healthier UK post-Covid, while also improving its financial sustainability in the long-term."

'Free fruit'

ShareAction praised recent Tesco initiatives, which showed that price cuts on fruit and vegetables raised sales, and that removing chocolate from prominent promotion spaces cut consumption.

A Tesco spokesperson said: "We are working hard to make it easy for our customers to make healthy choices, and we have set very clear targets on health and sustainability, published in our Little Helps Plan.

"Our reformulation programme has already removed more than 50 billion calories from our products since 2018; our 'helpful little swaps' events offer healthier alternatives to family favourites at the same price; and we have given away more than 100 million pieces of free fruit to children.

"We have also announced a target to increase sales of plant-based meat alternatives by 300% by 2025, and were the first retailer to set a target of this kind."

Backers of the move include Robeco Institutional Asset Management, JO Hambro Capital Management's UK Dynamic Fund and Epworth Investment Management, owned by the Central Finance Board of the Methodist Church. Together, the backers manage £140bn of funds.