M&S cheese cover-up
Store axes PHOTOS of fatty foods as it tries to encourage us to eat fewer ‘unhealthy’ meals
IMAGES of cheese and other ‘unhealthy’ foods have been removed from branches of Marks and Spencer in hospitals to deter shoppers.
Fizzy drinks, half-price biscuits and meal-deal promotions high in fat and sugar have also been banned in its 28 hospital outlets.
The moves have led to a backlash from customers and negative feedback from some NHS trusts and dieticians.
However, the retailer has pressed ahead and plans to apply what it ‘learns’ from its hospital branches to wider efforts to make all products healthier.
It even wants to get rid of separate ‘healthy eating’ ranges, instead offering that option as standard across all the company’s food products.
Claire Hughes, head of nutrition and science at M&S, said: ‘I don’t see us having healthy ranges in future – I see healthy being the norm across all our ranges and indulgence will be the thing that’s on the side. We will see things shift.
‘It’s quite early to tell, but I see some of the learnings we get from our hospital stores as being the future of retailing.’
She added that M&S was continuing to review recipes to make them healthier, for example making sure that all choc ices remained under 250 calories.
Miss Hughes admitted she was inundated with complaints when M&S added fibre to its white bread and removed fizzy drinks from hospital stores.
Speaking at a public health conference at Warwick University this week, she said: ‘In all our white bread – this was actually quite controversial – we increased the fibre amount to get to 3g [per 100g] so we could claim “a source of fibre”.
‘I’ve never had so many customer contacts about that, saying: “Why did you do that?
‘You’ve taken away my choice by putting more fibre in my bread.” I was surprised.’
She added: ‘In the hospital stores I suggested we removed sugar-sweetened beverages and fizzy drinks – and we have.
‘We had quite a lot of negative feedback about that, from some of the NHS trusts, from some customers saying we’ve taken away their choice, from some dieticians, which I was quite surprised about. But we’ve persevered with it and we’ve kept it.’ Miss Hughes also revealed that M&S was considering cutting the size of some products to meet government guidelines to reduce sugar and fats by 20 per cent by 2020. M&S has pledged to do this a year early.
She said she knew shoppers ‘were watching pack size’ but that it ‘has got to be part of the next recipe review’.
‘There might be some areas like pies, where we’re never going to have a healthy pie. You can have a healthier pie – but it might just be a smaller portion,’ she added.
The store is also overhauling the way it packages healthy food.
Miss Hughes said: ‘It frustrated me for a long time why products that were healthy were always in white packaging, they always said on the front, “I’m super healthy”, so why would you want to buy that? So it’s about making healthy foods aspirational and inspirational.’
M&S has faced criticism in the past for charging significantly more for some products at its hospital branches than on the high street, with Labour MP Paula Sherriff suggesting it was exploiting a ‘captive audience’.
However, the retailer defended the mark-ups, saying: ‘Prices can be a little higher in these locations due to increased running costs, such as longer opening hours.’
‘A lot of negative feedback’