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New safefood research reveals more than a third of food and drinks on special offer in supermarkets are high in fat, sugar and salt

New safefood research reveals more than a third of food and drinks on special offer in supermarkets are high in fat, sugar and salt

safefood, sponsors of Operation Transformation, launches “Transform Your Trolley” campaign to help shoppers make healthier choices amidst constant promotions.

safefood, sponsors of Operation Transformation, launches “Transform Your Trolley” campaign to help shoppers make healthier choices amidst constant promotions. #TransformYourTrolley

Monday 21 January, 2019. The balance of food and drink on special offer in Irish supermarkets has been revealed as new research¹ commissioned by safefood has found that more than a third (35%) of products on special offer in supermarkets are high in fat, sugar and salt. This number increased to more than half (56%) in convenience stores. The research was launched to coincide with safefood’s new Transform Your Trolley campaign as part of their sponsorship of RTE’s Operation Transformation. The campaign aims to encourage people to re-balance their food shopping habits and transform their trolleys into healthier ones.

The research, which looked at almost 70,000 food products on special offer, comprised interviews with retailers and shoppers, accompanied shopping trips and a consumer survey. The research revealed that price reductions (59%) and multi-buys (24%) are the most frequent type of price promotion. In addition it showed that 85% of promotional offers were located in standard shopping aisles alongside regularly priced products, as opposed to end-of-aisle or special promotional stands.

Introducing the research, Dr Marian O'Reilly, Chief Specialist in Nutrition at safefood, said:

We know that everybody loves a bargain and shoppers involved in the research told us that they made use of promotional offers to help manage the household budget. They also said they enjoyed the buzz of a bargain. But with more than a third of foods on offer being unhealthy it’s not surprising that last year Kantar data showed that the average household with children spend more on ‘treat’ foods (19% spend) than on fruit (10%) and vegetables (7%).”

The research also showed that shoppers wanted to see fewer promotions on things like confectionery (69%), biscuits (70%) and sugary drinks (66%) and more frequent promotion of fruit and vegetables (92%), fresh meats (80%) and fish (70%). “These results highlight that people really don’t want to be tempted by unhealthy food offers, they’d much rather see healthy foods, and particularly fruit and vegetables, on special offer”, added Dr O’Reilly.

safefood’s Transform Your Trolley campaign includes practical tips and strategies to help with food shopping and getting a healthier balance back into baskets and trolleys.

Supporting the campaign, Aoife Hearne, dietitian for Operation Transformation, continued: “This research reveals just how hard it is for people to make healthier choices when shopping when these unhealthy offers are literally everywhere. Tips like making a list, being more aware of these promotions and having a plan for your meals & snacks are all great places to start. We’ve also brought these practical food shopping tips and more to life in a new safefood video with magician Joel Mawhinney. Unlike Joel and his amazing tricks when we were out shopping, you don’t need to be a magician to transform your trolley – following our practical advice and trying your best to stick to the plan is the trick I’d recommend!”

For this year’s series of Operation Transformation, safefood’s nutrition team will be on-hand during the show (9:30pm-10:30pm) to answer your healthy eating and nutrition questions on a live chat, “Ask the Expert”, on safefood’s Facebook Messenger

- Ends -

For further information or to request an interview, please contact

Emma Walsh / Zara Brownless

Wilson Hartnell

Tel: +353 1 669 0030  

Mob: +353 87 317 0897 (Emma) / +353 83 301 2442 (Zara)

Email: [email protected] / [email protected]


Dermot Moriarty / Julie Carroll


Tel: 00353 1 448 0600

Mob: 00353 86 381 1034 (Dermot) / 00353 86 150 3047 (Julie)

[email protected]


¹ “What’s on offer? The types of food and drink on price promotion in retail outlets in the Republic of Ireland.” safefood / Ulster University 2019

Purchase data sourced from Kantar Worldpanel Ireland / safefood April 2018

Editor’s notes

The report comprised the following methodology:

  • An in-store audit of 69,620 food products on promotional offer from a range of supermarkets, discounters and convenience stores during July / August 2016 and February / March 2017
  • An online audit of 786 products being promoted by two retailers during a 12 month period from 2016-2017
  • Interviews with 14 retailers and public health stakeholders about retail food promotions
  • An online consumer survey of 1,948 respondents
  • An accompanied shop with 50 participants between March and April 2017

8 Tips to Transform Your Trolley

  1. Plan your meals before you go. If you’re one of those shoppers who have a mental checklist when you shop, just taking 5 minutes to check what you have in the cupboards, fridge and freezer before you go and planning what you need for your meals for the next week can save both time and money.
  2. Once you’ve done that - make a shopping list. This will take a little time at first but you’ll get quicker. This will help you get what you really need and avoid those impulse buys, especially for unhealthy snacks and treats that can be high in sugar, fat and salt.
  3. Be aware of food promotions. While offers for healthy foods like fruit and veg are fantastic, the majority of foods on promotion in supermarkets are unhealthy. You can avoid those by skipping certain aisles, being aware of the end-of-aisle shelfs as ‘watch out’ areas and passing up on promotional offers unless they fit in with your plans.
  4. It’s not always possible but if you know that pester power is an issue, shop alone or with a friend if you can. We’ve all been there, or seen someone else under pressure from children looking for treats while shopping. If you can get some time on your own – take it.
  5. Don’t shop when you are hungry. Your hunger will be fighting all your good intentions to stick with your healthy choices. Have a small snack, even a piece of fruit, to help you get to the till, minus the treats. If you do have to shop on an empty stomach stick to the list and do your best not to get distracted.
  6. For the same reasons, try to avoid shopping when tired or stressed. We all tend to reach for the comfort foods to help get us through. Pick a time and a day to shop when you know you’ll be under less pressure.
  7. Looking at food labels can help us understand what’s healthy and what’s not, but all the different formats and claims can actually add to the confusion. Reading labels takes a bit of time but it will help you gradually build up your knowledge of food labelling so you can make sense of it, at a glance.
  8. Look for a good balance in your shop. Make sure you include plenty of fruit and veg, wholegrain and brown carbs over white, and especially watch out for those treats. Keep the portions small and have treat-free days. A quick scan over your trolley before you hit the checkout will help you get a sense of this.

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