Co-op results - Health

Indicator 7.1 View criteria

Issue: Corporate commitment to public health

Indicator: Responsibility for and action on food and public health

Best in class

The Co-op scored full marks for this question, expressing commitment to support public health policy in all three areas (action on food poverty and health inequalities; commitment to widening access; and nutrition and healthy eating), and having published policies on all three, with a specified post at board level responsible for implementing them.

Indicator 7.2 View criteria

Issue: Action on food poverty and health inequalities

Indicator: Store location and pricing policy

The Co-op scored well on the question relating to pricing policy, indicating that it subsidises the costs of foods categorised as healthy (or as healthier alternatives to standard products) to encourage healthy eating and bring it within customers’ reach. Unfortunately, in spite of its tradition and policy commitment to maintain stores “at the heart of communities”, the Co-op did not score well on the indicator relating to store location. The answers showed that only a small proportion of stores newly opened or refurbished were in catchments that matched the company’s overall customer demographic for C2DE shoppers, which suggests that the focus may have shifted away from these communities. However, with no year on year data to compare it is impossible to say whether this was an exceptional year, or reflected a trend.


Indicator 7.3 View criteria

Issue: Commitment to widening access

Indicator: Access to and within stores

A relatively low proportion of the Co-op’s customers use cars to shop at the stores. The Co-op provides a delivery service for all customers, though it is not always free. It also has policies relating to customers with a range of special needs, including the blind and the elderly.


Indicator 7.4 View criteria

Issue: Nutrition and healthy eating

Indicator: Extent to which sales support dietary guidelines

The Co-op scored highly on all the questions relating to the extent to which sales support dietary guidelines (but see note in the Overall Review of this module). It has reduced salt, sugar and fat content in the product lines specified, and provides full nutritional labelling. It also supports the department of Health’s Five a Day logo. The Co-op also gained points for having IT systems in place that could help customers analyse their purchases nutritionally on the basis of their till receipts, for example by indicating the total fat or salt purchased, but although this information was said to be available via Customer Relations, it had never routinely been supplied to shoppers.

Overall commentary and examples of good practice

Although it is a relatively small organisation, with a market share of less than 5 per cent, the Co-op performed outstandingly in this module, achieving the highest score by a wide margin. The fact that it was able to answer (and score highly on) most questions suggests that the issues in this module (which are not yet routinely addressed by other retailers) already form part of Co-op policies.

It demonstrated a high level of awareness of the impact its policies and actions can have on public health, and showed a responsible attitude towards addressing the problems of diet-related illness. In particular, the supplementary materials the company supplied demonstrated a commitment to widening access to a healthy diet in a variety of ways – for example through its history of maintaining a large number of relatively small stores within walking distance of communities, or by means of the extensive use of Braille on packaging and information, or by supporting not-for-profit community food groups, such as self-help Co-ops. The company’s questionnaire responses and supplementary submissions reflected a not just a commitment to support government public health targets (for example by using the Department of Health’s Five-a-Day logo), but also a willingness to be proactive to develop health-supporting policies – such as the decision not to advertise foods high in fat, salt or sugar during children’s TV hours. All of this is especially to be commended given that more than half the Co-op’s customers fall into the poorer (C2DE) sections of society, where the health problems associated with poor diet are concentrated.

Examples of good practice

Areas for improvement


Supermarket comments

“With origins that support the interests of consumers, our policies have developed to provide a range of products with clear labelling information that helps consumers make an informed choice that can support their dietary needs. These are supported by our fresh fruit and vegetables, alongside product ranges that support a healthy diet, with both being available in a wide range of stores, even the smallest. Our marketing reflects this and our policy of not advertising fatty, salty and sugary food products to children continues to receive praise. Our recent acquisition of the Alldays and Balfours chains has introduced Co-op products to a new set of communities, where our approach is being welcomed and our products are gaining support. Many of our stores are the focus for local shopping, with people able to walk to their local Co-op and find a broad range of products that meet their needs as well as offering healthy diets, competitive prices and attractive new products usually associated with much larger stores.”


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