Consumer group the National Consumer Council has accused supermarkets of having twice as many supermarket price promotions for fatty and sugary foods compared to healthier options of fruit and vegetables.

The NCC said it looked at over 2,000 supermarket price promotions, such as ‘buy one, get one free’ and ‘multi-buy’ offers and found the proportion of promotions for fruit and vegetables ranging from the lowest at 7% in Somerfield to a healthier 27% in Marks & Spencer. No supermarket hit the NCC’s target of 33% – the percentage that it is recommended fruit and vegetables should make up in a balanced diet.

However, supermarkets have made significant strides in other ways, such as cutting salt, better labelling and taking sweets off the checkout. The NCC’s report, “Healthy Competition,” sets out a league table of how each supermarket has performed.

‘There is a sea change underway that is good news for consumers as supermarkets start to compete on health,” said NCC  chief executive, Ed Mayo. “We congratulate the Co-op, the top performer. The fact that the Co-op has an above-average share of budget-conscious shoppers shows that this is not just for the better off. But we’re dismayed that the biggest supermarket – Tesco – is a laggard on health.”

The Co-op comes in first place in the second year of NCC’s Health Responsibility Index. It was top scorer for reducing salt content – with their sausages having less salt than our target, its excellent nutrition labelling and the best information from the customer helpline. It is the only retailer to have an explicit policy for in-store price promotions – that 25% to 30% of its promotions are for healthier foods.

Marks & Spencer and Waitrose were equal second, with Sainsbury’s down to fourth place from last year’s second; Asda improved their rating from seventh to fifth with Tesco trailing at sixth; Iceland (not rated in 2004) and Somerfield taking equal seventh place, with Morrisons again placed ninth.

Marks & Spencer was the best overall improver for cutting salt and led the field in having the highest proportion of fruit and vegetable price promotions.