Foodservice slammed for upselling junk food

Consumers face an average of 106 “verbal pushes” towards unhealthy choices every year, according to a new poll published by the Royal Society for Public Health and Slimming World.

In the course of a week, upselling techniques used by food businesses resulted in 34% of people buying a bigger coffee than intended and 33% upgrading to a large meal in a fast food restaurant. More than one in three (36%) were also convinced to buy chocolate at the till at a newsagents or petrol station, whilst a similar number (35%) added chips or onion rings to the side of their pub or restaurant meal.

Restaurants and fast food outlets are the worst offenders, followed by supermarkets, coffee shops and pubs and bars, the researchers found. Young people (18 to 24 year olds) were also more likely to be exposed to upselling, with 166 verbal pushes a year. Almost four in five people (78%) experience upselling at least once a week.

RSPH used the findings to calculate the additional calories being consumed as a result of upselling: 330 a week, which could result in an estimated weight gain of 2.3kg over the course of a year.

More needs to be done to make consumers aware of these extra calories, said RSPH. “Businesses must take their fair share of responsibility for the obesity epidemic that is gripping the UK and put in place measures to aid their customers, especially young people, to make healthier choices,” it noted in a new report, “Size Matters”.

RSPH called for reduced business rates for companies that clearly display calorie contents and pledge only to upsell healthier options. Staff should also not be trained or rewarded for upselling.

Shadow health minister Sharon Hodgson said: “… it is crucial that consumers are empowered to make healthier choices at the checkout rather than being bombarded with junk food marketing or encouraged to upgrade to a larger drink or meal than the one originally ordered.”

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