The discounter also issued a call for other retailers to follow suit, noting it’s a small change that has a big impact.
“Our ambition is to make high quality, healthy food accessible to all, and the principal way we achieve this is through our best value prices. But we also recognise that there are other barriers in place, particularly concerning children, and parents are telling us that unhelpful packaging is one of them,” said Peter de Roos, chief commercial officer for Lidl GB.
Lidl was the first British supermarket to use the so-called ‘pester power’ marketing tactic to encourage children to eat more greens.
A 2020 study by Food Active and the Children’s Food Campaign reported that 91% of parents found the use of quirky names and cartoons appealed to kids - be it on sugar-laden sweets and snacks or less-appealing fruit and veg.
According to the study’s authors, packaging of a food product now acts as one of the most important determinants in a consumer’s buying decision process, with evidence suggesting that character branding is particularly influential on children’s food preferences, choices and intake.
In fact, 68% of parents believe child-friendly characters on packaging make it more difficult to feed their children a healthy diet.
Cartoon characters removed
This prompted Lidl’s landmark removal of cartoon characters from its own brand cereal packaging in 2020, a move, in fact, acknowledged by Action on Sugar at the time.
Katharine Jenner, a nutritionist for Action on Sugar, said: “We fully applaud Lidl GB’s decision to remove cartoon characters from all its cereal packaging by spring 2020.
“If they can do it, why can’t everyone else? We hope the tide is now turning and that other retailers and food manufacturers will follow suit for both own-label and branded products.
“We’re in the midst of a child obesity crisis and it’s wrong to advertise sugary, fatty, salty foods to kids.
“It’s time for the Government to step in and underpin tighter advertising restrictions with similar rules for packaging and promotions.”
However, the most recent study by the health watchdog still fingers the retailer’s Crownfield Choco Hazelnut Pillows as one of the biggest sugary cereal offenders in the UK still dressed up in child-appealing packaging.
A spokesman for Lidl GB told Bakery&Snacks this contradicts Action of Sugar’s above statement and alleges a number of inaccuracies in its study. However, Dr Kawther Hashem, campaign lead at Action on Sugars told this site, "Our objective with this product survey was to drive the industry towards continuous improvement. In this particular instance, our hope is to encourage Lidl to focus on using child-appealing packaging for their healthiest cereal offerings.
"Whilst Lidl rightly points out the achievements made by them in recent years regarding the removal of cartoon animations on pack, our criteria are not solely based on cartoon characters. Our criteria includes characteristics that may appeal to children, such as fun writing and animations. The products selected fulfilled our criteria for inclusion and it was only fair that it was referenced.
"We still acknowledge and praise Lidl for the changes in sugar content and the removal of cartoon characters, as shown by the quote from Katharine Jenner, as well as the wider work on cartoon characters specifically, which Lidl should champion independently. We now look forward to working together to promote more positive changes in the industry."
The FSA’s Nutrient Profiling Model (NPM) was used to assess which products are unhealthy. Christmas, Easter and Halloween are deemed special occasions in a child’s life and do not define their everyday diets. For this reason, Lidl has decided to make an exception for these occasions.
Doubling down on its bid to aid parents combat pester power and encourage a healthier diet among young’uns, Lidl has announced it will also remove cartoon characters on all so-called unhealthy products by spring 2024.
Over 14 different product categories will be impacted - including savoury snacks, chocolates and sweets - with at least 30 products getting a refreshed look.
Banana-Llamas, Tawny Tomatowl and Koala Pears
In the meantime, it’s collection of fruit and veg targeted at kids sport with quirky names and cartoon characters such as Banana-Llamas and Tawny Tomatowl. A naming competition for numerous memorable characters like Koala Pears led to nearly a quarter of a million additional units being sold up to a year later.
“This is something that’s so simple for us supermarkets to change, and our results show the positive impact that these small changes can make. We hope other supermarkets follow in our footsteps so that, as a sector, we can be confident we’re doing all we can to support parents in helping to improve the diets of the next generation.”
Part of the Schwarz Group (€133.6bn turnover in 2021), Lidl is one of Europe’s leading retailers with a footprint in 31 countries. It established itself in Great Britian in 1994 and today has over 960 stores and 13 distribution centres across England, Scotland and Wales. The company’s Healthy & Sustainable Diets Policy aims to increase sales of healthy and healthier products to at least 85% by 2025 and to increase sales of fresh fruit and veg by 35% by 2026.