Food and Drink Retail Purchasing: Media Statement

02 February 2021

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has published a new report revealing the impact of COVID-19 on food and drink retail purchasing in Scotland between January and July 2020.

This reports that since the first lockdown in March 2020, we have bought more food and drink compared to the same time in 2019. This is especially true of confectionery, crisps, alcohol & sweet/savoury cooking ingredients.

Our purchase of confectionery was consistently higher from May 2020 onwards compared to 2019 and substantially above the percentage increase seen in total food and drink. 

These findings are in agreement with what OAS observed in our public polling from May 2020: people are consuming more food & drink as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially less healthy options.  Read our polling results, here

These results combined with the data released last week from the Scottish Health Survey 2020, which reported that a significant number of adults report putting on weight during the pandemic control measures, indicate that we are likely to be seeing an increase in rates of overweight and obesity as we come out of the pandemic control measures.  As Scotland already faced a public health challenge with persistently high prevalence of overweight and obesity it is important that we see action to tackle this issue.

Lorraine Tulloch Programme Lead of Obesity Action Scotland commented:

“The increase in purchase of discretionary foods is concerning.  Even before the pandemic the Scottish diet was poor and that poor diet is driving the high rates of overweight and obesity we see in Scotland.  Published last week, the Scottish Health Survey found that a significant number of adults reported putting on weight during the pandemic control measures in 2020 and consuming unhealthy food on a daily basis.

All of this is clear evidence of the power that the environment has over people’s diet. The lesson here is simple:  food environment needs to be changed to improve national diet and diet-related health. We call for a stop to the incessant marketing and promotions of unhealthy food as the first step towards a healthier Scotland.”