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Let's go easy on the treats

Let's go easy on the treats

START campaign highlights parents want help to reduce treats as monthly spend by families on treats is €160

30 May 2022; New research¹ reveals families spent on average €160 on treat foods like crisps, chocolate and biscuits during April 2022. The START campaign from safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland is encouraging parents to take a step towards a healthier family lifestyle by reducing the amount of treats they give their children. Parents told2 the campaign they are aware that the amount of treats in their families’ diet has increased and would welcome advice on how they can reduce this.

The latest supermarket shopping data, analysed for the START campaign, reveals that families with children spent on average approximately €746 on take home groceries in the four weeks to 17 April 2022. Of this, €159 (21%) was spent on foods like biscuits, crisps and chocolate; while €49 (6.6%) was spent on fruit and €37 (5%) on vegetables. This is an increase in spend on treats compared to previous campaign research³, which showed that families spent on average 19% of their food budget on treat foods, 10% on fruit and 7% on vegetables.

Sarah O’Brien, National Lead for the HSE’s Healthy Eating and Active Living Programme said, “We know that parents and guardians want to do their best, and find the practical tips and advice at helpful.  However, we also know that the environment we live in makes it hard for parents and children to go easy on the treats. They are all around us and the food industry invests heavily in the marketing and promotion of these products on TV, online, in-store, in public spaces and more. While costs are rising for everyday foods like milk or bread, products like crisps and chocolate have not seen the same price increases. This can make it harder for families when they are trying to ensure their weekly shop contains the right balance of foods. So while we know it’s difficult, we’re encouraging families to talk about small changes they can make and to visit for tips and advice."

Latest data⁴ from the CSO shows that price increases for foods like crisps, confectionary and soft drinks ranged from 1.9% to 2.2% in the past 12 months. This compares with increases ranging from 0.3% for vegetables and 1.8% for fruit, 4.7% for meat, 8.1% for bread and 8.9% for milk.

Dr Aileen McGloin, Director of Nutrition with safefood, continued

“Parents know the impact that the past two years has had on their family’s life and the pressures that they face, especially with household food budgets tightening. Parents are trying to reduce treats but they need some support in achieving that; whether it’s advice on how to make a plan as a family to go easy on the treats; not buying as many when shopping; or guidance on how to talk to others in your family circle about offering smaller treats and not every day. All families have different circumstances so it’s about choosing what works for you and your children and making a start with that to make healthier choices.”

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist Dr Colman Noctor added:“Parents and guardians don’t want to be applauded for making the correct but difficult decision to reduce treats for their children. Approaching this as a family together and making sure your children understand why you are doing this, will make you far more likely to succeed. This will also help form healthier eating habits to last a lifetime. If parents have a question on how they can get started, just head over to safefood and HSE’s Instagram”

The START campaign aims to support parents and guardians to talk to children about reducing treats as a family and minimise intake of foods high in fat, salt and sugar. The campaign website includes lots of practical advice and support on how to reduce treats, ideas for healthy snacks and advice from parenting experts.



¹ The shopping data is based on Kantar FMCG data for families with children aged under 16 for the four weeks ending 17 April 2022. Kantar monitors the take home grocery purchasing habits of 5,000 demographically representative households across the Republic of Ireland. This includes all expenditure through store tills, excluding petrol and in-store concessions.

² Qualitative focus group interviews with 25 parents accounting for 54 children aged between 10 months and 24 years with a mix of single and two-parents households. (2022)

³ Supermarket purchase data sourced from Kantar Worldpanel Ireland. The analysis looked at the spend in Euro (€) the percentage of overall spend on food/drinks purchased in the supermarket for the period of March 2017 to February 2018

⁴ Central Statistics Office (CSO) Consumer Price Index survey April 2022.

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