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Aldi and IGA score low in obesity prevention efforts, supermarket report card shows

Aldi and IGA have received extremely low scores in a new study that assessed the efforts being made by Australia’s top supermarkets to help tackle the obesity crisis.

With two-thirds of Australian adults overweight or obese, researchers at Deakin University’s Global Obesity Centre analysed the obesity prevention and nutrition-related policies and commitments of the four main supermarket chains and gave each a score out of 100.

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Australia is the fifth most overweight and obese among all OECD countries, with 12.2 million adults with a BMI above 25.

Woolworths earned 46, while Coles received 40. Aldi and IGA performed poorly, receiving dismal scores of 11 and 8 respectively.

“It was what I expected it to be, I knew Coles and Woolworths were paying some attention to nutrition, while Aldi and IGA really were not, so it wasn’t a surprise,” said lead author Associate Professor Gary Sacks.

Less than 7 per cent of Australians have diets that meet the Australian Dietary Guidelines and one in four children are overweight or obese, increasing their risk of obesity-related diseases such as stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

In the report ‘Inside our Supermarkets’, the authors say all the supermarkets could be doing much more to encourage healthy eating and have urged them to remove confectionery and sugary drinks from checkouts and reduce promotions for junk food, often seen in end-of-aisle displays.


Food manufacturers pay hefty fees to spruik “half-price” deals in highly-prized sections of supermarkets. They are skilled at triggering impulse buys by placing $1 or $2 treats near the checkout.

“The fact we’re seeing UK supermarkets commit to healthy checkouts indicates that removing confectionery is feasible and as pressure on supermarkets to take action increases, there’s a real opportunity for them to compete on healthiness,” said Associate Professor Sacks.

“Sure we’re all responsible for what we buy and eat but we know the environment - where things are placed, what’s available and promoted heavily - heavily influences our decisions.”

The researchers used publicly-available information as well as additional information later provided by the supermarkets. Aldi declined to provide any information beyond what was on its website.

“No companies had in place formal policies to reduce the exposure of children and adolescents to ‘less healthy’ food marketing,” the researchers wrote.

“No companies had taken significant action to restrict the availability of ‘less healthy’ foods in-store [and] no companies had made a commitment to restrict promotions on ‘less healthy’ products.”

Overall, the supermarkets earned an average score of 47 out of 100 for their health-related corporate strategies, 42 for product formulation, 3 for promotion practices, and 11 for accessibility to healthy products.

In regards to corporate strategy, they said: “Aldi reported on nutrition and health at the global level, with little reference to Australia, while IGA made no mention of nutrition or health in company reporting.''

Despite choosing not to fully participate in the study, Aldi said it was “dissatisfied” with the report and “disputed” the claims.

It said it was continuing to expand its healthy product ranges, committed to reducing sugar, salt and saturated fat from their products, and it “never used price promotions to promote unhealthy products”.

Metcash, which owns the IGA network, said it was increasing their range of fresh and healthy foods and implementing new healthy eating programs.

“While the study correctly acknowledges our ‘Eat Well @ IGA’ initiative designed to improve the healthiness of customer purchases, it appears to have overlooked other important initiatives such as the ‘IGA Family Program’ where IGA stores provide members of their local communities with tools to promote healthy lifestyles,” a spokesman said.

Coles said it was working with food manufacturers to reduce salt in foods and formulate lower nutrition targets for sugar and saturated fat.

“We note that the report does not take account of the important role of exercise in a healthy lifestyle,” its spokesman said.

“Coles in September announced a three-year partnership with Athletics Australia and Little Athletics, and donated more than 2 million bananas to Little Athletics clubs across Australia.”

Woolworths said it had started increasing space for fresh produce as well as creating dedicated health aisles.

“We are pleased to see key initiatives, like our support for the Federal Government’s Health Star Ratings and our Free Fruit for Kids program, which has given out over 18 million pieces of fruit in the last year alone, being recognised,” said its managing director Claire Peters.