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Our health and wellbeing outcome is influenced by a number of factors from the environment surrounding us to what we eat and how we live our lives. In the developed world there’s a growing imbalance between the number of calories we consume and how many that we use through exercise and therefore we have a growing overweight and obese population in adults and children. We’re not eating enough fibre or fruit and vegetables, having too much saturated fat and added sugar and not enough of some vitamins and minerals.

As a population we need to rebalance our diet to eat more healthy foods so that we can achieve the right nutrient balance.  It’s not only obesity that’s a challenge but what comes with it in terms of increased risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.  We also have a population that is living for longer and we need to make sure that they live healthier for longer. At M&S we recognise we have a role to play as part of a multi-stakeholder approach to addressing the UK dietary imbalance.

Commitments and targets
We’re committed to leading the way in promoting healthy lifestyles and wellbeing, by developing innovative product ranges, offering the best information and encouraging our customers and colleagues to live healthier lives.

Approach
We have had a dedicated health strategy in place for over 10 years focused on supporting our customers to make healthier choices and this is embedded as a strategic pillar of our Food business.

We are making healthy eating easier through clear on-pack labelling and provision of accessible customer information. This is underpinned by a programme of reformulation to continually improve the nutritional profile of our foods by removing or reducing levels of unnecessary or unwanted ingredients such as additives, saturated fat and salt. We've also introduced initiatives to add nutrients that are in short supply into our foods to help boost customers’ intakes. This all works in combination with an innovative product development team which create recipes and ingredients that inspire customers to eat more healthily.  We believe that healthy eating should be pleasurable and not a compromise.

We’ve achieved a number of industry firsts – for example, we were the first retailer to:

  • Develop a low fat range, ‘count on us’, in 2000 to help customers interested in losing weight 
  • Introduce a simple signpost for healthy eating, the eat well sunflower logo, in January 2005
  • Introduce a combination of Dietary Reference Intake percentages and colour-coded front of pack nutritional information across prepared food in January 2007, which has since become the recommended industry practice
  • Remove all hydrogenated fats as ingredients from our food in 2006 and all artificial colours and flavourings from our entire food and soft drinks range in 2008
  • Work with the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health to launch a high protein range designed to keep you fuller for longer (now called Balanced for You) in January 2010
  • Sell Better For You Milk in 2011 which has 6% less saturated fat than conventional milk as a result of adapting the way that our farmers feed their cows
  • Add vitamin D to our entire packaged bread range in 2015 after finding our customers were concerned they weren’t getting their recommended daily amount
  • Boost the fibre content of our white bread loaves so that it all provides a source of fibre in January 2016

We are also involved in other initiatives to ensure that ongoing nutrition science research is relevant to industry and the public health initiative 'Campaign for Healthy Lives with the Consumer Goods Forum' and addresses the health issues facing our customers. 


Our approach to public health focusses on:
Managing the safety and integrity of our products and supply chain
Health & nutrition policy positions

The majority of the food we sell is manufactured under our own exclusive brand – so we know for certain that it’s honestly labelled, made from high quality ingredients and to stringent standards which we will not compromise on.

Additives
We know that our customers prefer to avoid the use of additives, so it's our policy to minimise the use of food additives wherever we can, across our entire range of foods - and to use natural additives wherever possible.

We do not use any artificial colours or flavours in any of our food, soft drinks or juice products.  There are a number of other food additives which are not permitted in our foods. These include monosodium glutamate (msg), cyclamates, aspartame and over half of the additives permitted by the EU - particularly those associated with concerns about food intolerance and children's diets e.g. Ponceau 4R, Sunset Yellow and carmoisine. 

Training
We deliver independently accredited health and nutrition training to all of our food team to help support our development and reformulation work across foods and drinks.

Driving health and nutrition benefits across our product offer
Reformulation

We have had an active product reformulation strategy for a number of years.

We continually review the nutrient content of our food as part of the development process and by benchmarking our products against the market.

We minimise the use of ingredients, such as added sugar, in products where the customer would not expect to find them.

Our activity on reducing calories, saturated fat, salt and added sugar as well as boosting fibre and other positive nutrients and removing artificial colours and trans-fat is on the premise that we won’t compromise on the quality or safety of our food offer. 

Product and technical development

We believe in inspiring our customers to eat more healthily through innovative foods and ingredients.  We’re committed to developing more innovative food in others ways too – for instance, we:

  • Enrich soils with nutrients that are lacking in the UK diet, for example, selenium
  • Add ingredients and nutrients to foods that have a preventative or targeted health benefit, such as vitamin D
  • Process foods in ways that optimise nutritional value
  • Develop innovative convenient product solutions that make it easier for customers to eat a healthier diet e.g. courgetti spaghetti launched in 2016, stir-fry combinations, freshly prepared fruit

We continue to look for opportunities to improve the nutritional profile of our food products but this activity alone doesn’t necessarily deliver public health benefits. Individual food products or nutrients alone don’t necessarily equate to a healthy and balanced diet. 

For example, if our consumers choose to eat a lot of products from our Eat Well range they may overconsume certain nutrients. Therefore, our approach is to focus on reformulating whole diets rather than individual food products and nutrients. We believe Eat Well, as well as offering customers a broader array of tasty, visually appealing healthy food products, can help us achieve this goal.


Healthier food ranges

Specific to M&S, we’ve launched product ranges aimed at customers who are looking to purchase healthy and nutritious food.

For example, exclusive to M&S our ‘Balanced for You’ range was launched in January 2010 and was developed with expert advice from scientists from the University of Aberdeen. All products in this range are high in protein and can be included as part of a weight loss or weight maintenance diet.  

Similarly, our ‘Count on Us’ product range has been specially developed to be low in fat (less than 3%) and calorie controlled. This range can be used to help customers who are trying to lose weight sensibly, offering a variety of great tasting products to choose from that contain less fat and calories than standard M&S products.


Helping to facilitate behaviour change through clear nutrition labelling and information
Nutrition labelling

We were the first retailer to introduce the combination of Dietary Reference Intake percentages and colour-coded front of pack nutritional information across prepared food in January 2007. This has since become the recommended industry standard.

We have now extended front of pack nutrition labelling across our food product catalogue, either full five colour coded nutrients or calories only where space is limited. We have also included calories (energy) labelling on our hospitality boards where space is limited. Feedback we’ve received from customers indicates that they find this labelling information extremely useful and that they expect to see it displayed on pack.

It is of course more difficult to determine how this information has impacted purchasing habits, but when we first launched the scheme the Dietary Reference Intake percentages did help to drive further product reformulation within our food development teams.

Five a Day
To help make it easier for customer to achieve five portion of fruit and vegetables a day we clearly label five  a day portions on the front of pack to help customers include more of these foods in their diets. We also help to make five a day more convenient and accessible through innovative product formats and selection. We currently provide free fruit for children in 20 stores and are rolling it out to 100 stores in summer 2019. 

Hospitality labelling
Since 2012 we have also provided calorie labelling in our customer hospitality formats. . Healthy choices are emphasised to the customer by the Eat Well sunflower logo along the customer journey in store and at the point of choice.

Eat Well
We launched our Eat Well sunflower logo as a signpost for healthier food choices in January 2005. Products that carry this logo must comply with strict nutrition criteria and fit within the health eating guidelines provided in the UK Government EatWell Guide. The Eat Well sunflower logo encourages customers to choose healthier food products in our stores. It is a simple and positive message (i.e. encouraging customers to choose a particular product rather than attempting to restrict individual choice).


Customer health information

We believe there is a need to better articulate the importance of balanced eating/diets and to make it simpler for consumers to understand, rather than focusing on individual nutrients which has invariably been the focus historically.

We also offer a ‘Ask the nutritionist’ service (Nutrition@marks-and-spencer.com) to help customers get more information where needed.

We work with health professionals from across the UK to share the science behind our ranges and our approach on health, products and labelling – our goal is to reach over 1 million professionals each year.

Supporting our customers and employees to lead healthier and more active lives
Supporting individual dietary needs

We know shopping can be difficult for people with intolerances, allergies and special diets. We have worked closely with national allergy charities to develop clear allergy labelling to make shopping for these diets easier across our store.

When developing new foods, wherever possible we also avoid the use of ingredients that are commonly known to cause allergies, particularly in foods where you wouldn't expect to find them e.g. milk protein in sliced meat.

Where we can’t avoid the use of these ingredients, it’s our policy to help customers identify whether a product is suitable for their diet through clear allergen and ingredient labelling. We highlight items containing the following allergens on the back of the individual pack:

  • Cereals containing gluten, namely: wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats
  • Crustaceans for example prawns, crabs, lobster, crayfish
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Milk
  • Nuts; namely almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia (or Queensland) nuts
  • Celery (including celeriac)
  • Mustard
  • Sesame 
  • Sulphur dioxide/sulphites, where added and at a level above 10mg/kg in the finished product. This can be used as a preservative in dried fruit 
  • Lupin which includes lupin seeds and flour and can be found in types of bread, pastries and pasta
  • Molluscs like clams, mussels, whelks, oysters, snails and squid.

We’ve also developed special ranges catering to certain diets such as vegan with ‘Plant Kitchen’ which launched in January 2019, vegetarian, and our ‘Made Without’ range. We  work hard to label our products clearly for customers with specific needs, for example with our gluten free logo. 

Where we can, we also provide a choice within our seasonal ranges for customers who wish to avoid particular ingredients e.g. gluten free Christmas pudding.

We make product lists available  to enable our customers to see which of our products do not contain gluten, dairy, egg, nuts, soya and sesame. Customers who have more than one intolerance or allergy can also check on combined lists of gluten and dairy, nut and sesame, and soya and dairy. All our lists are updated on a monthly basis and are available in stores from customer services. 

Alcohol
We encourage responsible drinking and promote sensible drinking messages. We also provide alcohol units on our labels.

We work closely with the Department of Health and actively support organisations such as Drinkaware Trust and Alcohol Concern.

We’ve developed a range of low-alcohol and alcohol-free drinks and have introduced a range of wine containing 10% alcohol or less. 

We recognise that we have an important role to play in enforcing age-related sales, and have introduced robust measures to prevent young people getting access to alcohol from our stores. 

In 2014, we included kcal labelling alongside units of alcohol on our products to help customers better understand the impact on their diet and daily kcal intake.

Food at till points
We’ve had a till point policy across our main store estate since September 2015 and we refreshed this in Spring 2019. Our aim is to limit impulse purchases of snacks high in fat, salt and sugar and encourage portion control.
Healthy and active lifestyles

We’re committed to supporting our customers and employees to lead healthier and more active lives. 

Customers
We regularly talk to our customers about all aspects of a healthy lifestyle in our magazine, in store leaflets and our dedicated health website (see above). 

Colleagues 
We’ve always worked hard to look after our people and maintain our reputation as an employer of choice. We believe that happier and healthier colleagues  are more engaged and effective. 

We have a dedicated health and wellbeing area on our Intranet which promotes a wide range of information. It has video and podcast information from experts, access to personal health coaches and our occupational health and employee support services, as well as promoting opportunities to get active. 

We provide healthy options in each of our colleague canteen facilities, signposted through the healthy eating Eat Well logo. 

We also recognise the importance of balancing a focus on employee's physical health with mental health. We have an established wellbeing programme, which includes a dedicated online Mental Wellbeing area on our Wellbeing portal with tools and materials from Mental Health experts designed to support M&S employees and line managers alike in both prevention and support. The initiatives we have in place are designed based on open conversations with colleagues to help create a workplace culture in which people can be themselves.” 

We participate in the Business in the Community (BITC) Wellbeing Public Reporting Benchmark which enables companies to measure the way they report on wellbeing against BITC's best practice framework. Find out more about our approach to sustainability benchmarks and indices.

Advocacy on public policy and thought leadership
Investing in science

Science will play a key part in understanding how we can continue to deliver enhanced health benefits to our customers in the future. It is important to continue to invest in science and research funding in order to generate product innovation or public policy interventions that can work to improve public health outcomes.

We are involved in a number of initiatives to ensure that ongoing nutrition science research is relevant to industry. For example, we are contributing to the funding of a joint BBSRC and food industry initiative, DRINC. This is funding research that helps develop our understanding of healthier diets – specifically, the effect of food components on energy intake, and how foods might be designed to have precise nutritional properties, explore bioactives in food, look at how beneficial compounds work and how health claims may be verified.

We have also developed strategic relationships with key UK national health charities to help support and drive science and education for both customers and healthcare professionals. These include Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and Coeliac UK.

Working with others

Listening, learning, responding and working in partnership is an important part of how we do business.

To develop our approach to public health, we’ve worked with many partners, including the Food Standards Agency, British Nutrition Foundation, Department of Health,Public Health England, Food Standards Scotland and Scottish Government as well as campaign groups such as CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health), and Which?

Operationally, Campden BRI are helping us ensure the safety and integrity of our products. We’re also working with a number of organisations (Food Standards Agency, Drinkaware Trust, Alcohol Concern, Diabetes UK) to promote healthier and active lifestyles.

We believe there is a need to improve the collation and understanding of evidence on public health in order to ensure that policy changes be accurately measured and refocused if necessary. We’re working closely with the Government, the IGD, BRC, and BBSRC on various public health related initiatives including research, public policy advocacy and thought leadership.