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UK Obesity Fuelled By Up-Selling


According to a report from The Royal Society for Public Health, the UK public is being pressured by food sellers into buying unhealthily large portions by marketers.

The UK already has one of the most obese populations in Europe according to the OECD; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The study found that just under 27% of all people in the UK have a body mass index of 30 or above - which is the officially recognised definition of "obesity". Clearly, the UK is not alone in fighting obesity. In fact, five of the 35 member states of the OECD have even higher obesity levels. The USA has the world's highest obesity levels followed by Mexico, New Zealand, Hungary and Australia.

As per,, The Royal Society for Public Health points to marketing tactics from food retailers including shops, supermarkets, restaurants and fast-food outlets as contributing to the crisis by pushing ever-larger portions - many of which are of unhealthy foods. This marketing tactic is known as "up-selling" and it sees customers being encouraged to go for bigger meals and portions, along with drinks and, often, calorific toppings and side-dishes. According to one poll, eight out of ten UK consumers employ this tactic each week.

A number of campaign groups have criticised the sales tactic and many organisations including the National Health Service, the British Heart Foundation, the Food Standards Agency and others campaign to educate the UK public about healthy food choices and portion sizes - and to make healthier choices when buying ready-made foods.

Some retailers are responding to the call. For instance, it's easy to find a healthy food option at once you've decided what kind of cuisine you want to order and put in your postcode. These will usually range from things like ultra-healthy sandwich options, sushi, salads, juices and some of the more "traditional" super foods - to more unexpected items like healthy pizzas, rotisserie chicken, soups and halal options etc.

Many other UK food retailers include healthier choices as part of their overall offering, but the up-selling tactic remains prevalent in most outlets. What's more, portion sizes are far more important than many consumers seem to realise - even when the content is healthy. According to the British Heart Foundation, portion sizes are all-important when maintaining a healthy overall diet - despite the fact that the food choices may be what are generally regarded as healthy foods including fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, pulses and fish etc. You can find out more about ideal portion sizes at

The Royal Society for Public Health is keen for UK consumers to be more aware of the up-selling marketing tactics to help people make more informed choices about portion size as well as food content. The report explains that young people in the 18-24 age group are exposed to more up-selling than other age groups and that the additional portions really add up; taking a heavy toll on the UK's obesity problem over time. The Society's aim is that by highlighting the dangers involved, the UK public will become more aware of when and how food businesses are targeting them via up-selling and will make better choices to help maintain a healthier weight.

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Nov 29, 2017 10:30 AM EST

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