As a sector, we have moved long ago from the old “fags, bags and mags” image of local shops, but I sometimes wonder if our politicians and policy makers ever go into any of our stores, when I see the misconceptions they are still perpetuating, and the measures they want to introduce to try to improve the health of the nation. Yes, we sell confectionery, cigarettes, alcohol and high fat foods, but last time I looked these were all still legal products, and it’s not as if we force our customers to buy them.
What we ARE doing, and doing better all the time, is providing healthier choices alongside the more traditional offerings, whether it be fresh fruit and vegetables, meat from local butchers, or lower sugar variants of well-known products. There is an increasing demand for “lifestyle” products too, such as protein drinks and bars, not to mention vaping.
In Scotland, we are lucky to be supported by the Healthy Living Programme, which provides practical support for retailers who want to take an active role in changing the diets of their customers: activities such as Healthy Eating Days in store, Healthy Breakfasts in schools, and the Fruit Club loyalty card scheme have helped us all develop our profiles within our communities. We are definitely doing our bit, as are manufacturers and suppliers by reformulating products in accordance with new government guidelines.
What is seldom addressed by politicians is that it is ultimately down to individuals to take responsibility for their own health through diet and exercise. That doesn’t make a good sound bite though, does it?