Marks and Spencer expects its “Eat Well” food range, which makes up a quarter of all its products, to account for 40 per cent of total food sales within six months, reflecting the strong growth in customers wanting to buy heart healthy foods.
Its range of nutritionally balanced products, lower in salt and fat, is growing at two and a half times the rate of the chain’s overall food business two years after launch and now accounts for 30 per cent of sales.
“The heart healthy foods element (of our grocery range) is about two years ahead of where we thought it would be,” said Guy Farrant, director of M&S food.
Meanwhile, other chains tapping into healthy eating are also seeing sales growth, with J. Sainsbury, the UK’s third largest chain, enjoying sales increases of 17 per cent in its organic ranges, compared with a 5.7 per cent increase in overall store sales the first quarter. In the past two weeks, it has also launched an organic box scheme to tap into the demand for organic food.
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The changing shopping patterns at the likes of M&S and Sainsbury reflect the growing recognition among the population over the dangers of an unhealthy diet.
Tony Blair last month warned that the NHS would not be able to “keep pace with the state of the country’s health” amid the rise in obesity, diabetes and heart healthy foods.
The prime minister has also warned the food industry that if if fails to come up with clear food labelling guidelines, the government will impose its own system.
The food industry is making a more concerted effort to come up with a common scheme after some retailers, such as Tesco and M&S, refused to adopt the Food Standard Agency’s “traffic light” scheme and instead opted to use guideline daily amounts on packs.
Food companies and retailers have since agreed to allow independent researchers to assess the effectiveness of the respective schemes and recommend an industry standard for widespread adoption within the next 18 months.