Investment NGO ShareAction has cautiously welcomed new commitments to promote a healthy diet by Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket. Tesco announced the commitments in response to a February shareholder resolution led by ShareAction, to sell more healthy products.
Seven institutional investors managing £140 billion in assets, together with 101 retail investors, co-filed the February resolution, which will be put to shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting. It was the first health-based resolution to be filed at a UK-listed company. ShareAction says it reflects rising investor concerns over health impacts.
Tesco has said it will increase sales of healthy products to 65 per cent by 2025, up from 58 per cent. And sales of plant-based meat alternatives will rise by 300 per cent in that time.
The company said it’s committed to removing billions of calories and thousands of tonnes of salt, fat and sugar from products, without affecting taste, as part of a rolling programme of reformulation.
It will offer affordable plant-based protein options, and increase promotions on healthy products.
Jessica Attard, Head of Health at ShareAction, said, “Today’s news demonstrates the power of investor engagement. Tesco’s new plans are an important recognition of the role supermarkets play in shaping our diets, at a time when our health has never been more critical.
“With 27 per cent of the British grocery market, Tesco has an outsized influence on the nation’s health”
“We look forward to continuing to work with Tesco, and to seeing other supermarkets and food manufacturers step up to this challenge.”
However, the plans only cover Tesco-branded UK outlets, not Budgens and Londis-branded stores. These are owned by Tesco, through Booker, and its international operations. ShareAction will also seek clarification on Tesco’s health definitions, to make sure products really are improved.
The NGO’s view is that with 27 per cent of the British grocery market, Tesco has an outsized influence on the nation’s health.
Its resolution, to be put to a vote at Tesco’s AGM, would require the company to disclose the share of total food and non-alcoholic drink annual sales by volume, made up of healthier products. And to develop a strategy for significantly increasing that share by 2030. It would also require Tesco to publish a review of progress in its annual report from 2022 onwards.
Investors co-ordinated by ShareAction made similar requests at Tesco’s 2020 AGM, but significant commitments or progress hadn’t been forthcoming.
Anna Taylor, Executive Director at The Food Foundation said, “Tesco sets out some great commitments. They should be proud of the speed at which they have added more veg to the ready meal category.
“I hope other retailers are taking note! Today’s announcements show Tesco is up for the challenge.”
Tesco Group CEO Ken Murphy said, “Customers are telling us they want to eat a more healthy, sustainable diet, but without having to stretch the weekly shopping budget. We can help them make that change.
“Today we are sharing our new ambitions on health, and committing to reporting our progress against them.”