The UK’s obesity crisis is being fuelled by businesses pushing unhealthy food and larger portions on shoppers, according to health experts. The Royal Society for Public Health warned consumers were being tricked by a marketing ploy known as upselling. The tactic involves cafes and restaurants encouraging customers to upgrade to larger meals and drinks or adding high-calorie toppings and sides.
A poll suggested eight in 10 people experienced it every week. Royal Society for Public Health chief executive Shirley Cramer said the industry was pressuring the public into buying extra calories, which then added up “without us noticing”.
She said businesses needed to stop training staff to upsell high-calorie food and instead focus on healthy alternatives. The findings were drawn from a poll of more than 2,000 UK adults by the RSPH and Slimming World.
Those who had experienced upsells had been targeted more than twice a week on average, with younger people the most susceptible.
The most common place for upselling to occur is restaurants, followed by supermarkets, coffee shops and bars. The research showed many of the upsells were unhealthy options, with the average person who fell victim to the technique consuming an average of 17,000 extra calories a year, enough to gain an extra 5lbs (2.3kg) over 12 months.
The practice occurs at the point-of-sale and is not at the customer’s request. Examples include a coffee shop baristas asking if customers would like a large rather than a regular-sized coffee or if they want whipped cream added.
One worker told researchers: “I’ve been trained so that if a customer asks for a product, to upsell that in every possible way.”