Almost every parent who's ever gone shopping for groceries with their children knows the pain of standing in a long queue at checkout while their child repeatedly asks for that chocolate egg, lolly or gum. You keep saying no hoping that it won't result in a tantrum, or eventually give in so you can shop in peace.
Last month, a Richmond supermarket in New Zealand, Fresh Choice, removed all sugary items from its checkout areas and replaced them with fresh fruit, salads, phone cards, batteries and water. The move has been welcomed by many parents and shoppers who've commented on Fresh Choice's Facebook page. The post published on July 12 has since been shared over 400 times.
Gary Watson, the owner of Fresh Choice, told local newspapers it was a 'moral' rather than financial decision on his and his wife's part to remove the confectionary from the checkouts and replace with healthier and seasonal items. Chocolates and lollies are still available to buy elsewhere in the store but are no longer placed in a prime position near checkouts in clear view of children and adults.
By replacing sugar items with healthier food options, the supermarket is trying to get both adults and children to adopt healthy snacking habits. The rising obesity levels in New Zealand influenced Gary's decision. Currently 1 in 9 children between 2-14 years and 1 in 3 adults (aged 15 years and over) are obese.
In Australia, 1 in 4 children aged between 5-17 years and more than half of Australia's adult population is either obese or overweight. So should supermarkets here follow Fresh Choice's example and would it help parents who regularly grocery shop with their children?
Many Australian parents who commented on the above story believe that if supermarkets in Australia removed sweets from checkouts it would be extremely helpful. Vishna, a mum of two in Perth said, "I would like that to happen in all supermarkets. My son who's 2 years old always wants a lollipop from IGA as they put the lolly stand on the checkout counter. It drives me nuts as I go shopping for milk every third day."
Angela, a mum of two also said, "As a parent I find taking my kids (nearly 8 and 3.5) to the supermarket to be a painful experience. It's not just the checkouts, there are treat foods everywhere. I get requests for sushi, pink milk, sugar-laden breakfast cereals, lollies, and so forth in almost every aisle. I try to avoid taking both children to the shops and I have to say that the free fruit at Woolworths has helped take the edge off the requests as it seems to distract them from all the other foods I try not to buy."
Lisa Renn, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia welcomed the initiative by Fresh Choice. "After you've dragged your kids around the supermarket for half an hour and they're getting a bit grumpy, it can be a very difficult time for parents to be able to say no to their kids. Ultimately, it's up to the parent to make those decisions for their children by providing high sugar or high fat foods sometimes instead of on a habit-forming basis so any initiatives that make this job easier is a great thing."
When contacted for comment, an ALDI Australia spokesperson provided the following statement, "At our checkouts, shoppers will often find healthier snacking products including almonds, peanuts as well as single serve nut bars and batteries in place of sugary items. Any confectionary available at the checkout is also positioned above waist height, reducing the vantage point for most children." There's been no response from Coles and Woolworths as yet.
Lisa has a few tips for parents wanting to make grocery shopping a less painful experience:
- Don't go to supermarkets when you or your child is hungry. If possible, go after lunch or soon after breakfast.
- Always carry water in case your children are actually thirsty and not hungry.
- Try and negotiate with your child before you enter the supermarket, say "We are not going to have any snacks or chocolates today so mummy is going to say no if you ask." Giving them prior warning can help children get their heads around it more easily.
- Don't say "Mummy is going to say no for the chocolates in the supermarket because I'll give you one when we get home," which is not that useful.
- Stay firm on the no and don't change it to a maybe.