Public ‘tricked’ into buying unhealthy food

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 shops, 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.

How upselling fuels obesity

78% of people experience upselling each week

106 upsells per person per year

35% added sides like chips to a meal

34% bought a larger coffee

17,000 extra calories on average over a year

Source: Royal Society of Public Health/Slimming World

The most common upsells to be taken included larger coffees, bigger meals, sweets and chocolates and extra sides such as onion rings and chips.

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.

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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 it to happen was restaurants, followed by fast-food outlets, supermarkets, coffee shops and pubs 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.

'I kept falling for upsells'

Liam Smith, 25, from West Yorkshire, is just one of the many people who have been persuaded by the marketing ploy.

But since recognising he was eating too much he has lost 6st (38kg) and now refuses upsells.

"Being able to 'go large' on a meal for 30p extra was always a no-brainer for me, as was a few pence more for a large cup of hot chocolate or paying £1 more to turn a single burger into a double.

"Afterwards, I'd wish I hadn't done it though - I can only describe it as a major feeling of guilt."

The top 10 places for upselling

1. Restaurants

2. Fast-food outlets

3. Supermarkets

4. Coffee shops

5. Pubs and bars

6. Cinemas

7. Planes and airports

8. Petrol stations

9. Newsagents

10. Railway stations

The practice occurs at the point-of-sale and is not at the customer's request.

Examples include a coffee shop barista asking if you would like a large rather than a regular-sized coffee or if you want whipped cream added.

Another popular one is a fast-food worker asking if you would like to make a meal large for only a minimal cost.

One worker told researchers: "I've been trained so that if a customer asks for a product, I always ask if they'd like to make that a meal."

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