‘Low-income households spending more on unhealthy food, drink’

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Low-income households are spending £250 million more a year on some of the unhealthiest food and drink categories than higher-earning families, new research has revealed.

According to a report from non-profit organisation Impact on Urban Health and sustainable food company Mission Ventures, there are 10 food and drink categories that are currently lacking both affordable and healthier options – contributing to the contrast in overall spending.

Analysing data on product lines across the UK grocery market, the report discovered that these categories represent £4.3 billion in annual grocery sales.

Over half of that (£2.3 billion) comes from households on lower incomes, versus £2 billion from households on higher incomes, equating to a £249 million disparity.

As stated by the data, frozen ready meals and frozen processed poultry like chicken nuggets are most frequently purchased, with households on lower incomes spending up to £376 million more on these items than affluent households.

Following close behind are canned soft drinks, instant hot snacks like pot noodles, and children’s biscuits, with low-income families spending up to £286 million more.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to be healthy and eat well. It’s not right that families on lower incomes can’t get enough healthy, affordable food in the places they live, work, and go to school,” programme director from Impact on Urban Health, Rebecca Sunter said.

“Right now, healthy options are on average three times more expensive per calorie than unhealthy alternatives.”

The findings come a day after it was reported that the UK’s least affluent households have almost £40 a month less spare cash than they did a year ago while the richest have gained a similar sum in the same period.

The wealthiest 20 per cent of households had £36 a month more in discretionary income in December compared with a year before, as they enjoyed record earnings growth which offset rising energy and food bills, analysts at Retail Economics found.