A host of UK retailers have taken the unusual step of implementing their own bans on the sale of energy drinks to children, despite the lack of any formal direction from the government on the matter.

Over the first two months of 2018 Waitrose, Tesco, Co-op, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl and Morrisons – the UK’s seven largest food retailers – all implemented the ban. This month Boots became the first non-supermarket to join them.

Specifically, this means banning the sale of products with caffeine content of more than 150mg per litre to under-16s. The fact this potentially profit limiting step has been taken without government enforcement is unusual, but emphasises the importance large retail chains now place on having a responsible brand image.

The #NotforChildren campaign has become prominent on social media among a variety of groups and individuals, including health concerned celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, the charity Action on Sugar, the MP Maria Caulfield and NASUWT, the teachers union. NASUWT has gone as far as attributing some cases of poor behaviour of children in schools to high energy drink consumption.

Major retailers have become extremely concerned about monitoring opinion of them on social media, and highly competitive nature of British supermarket retailing means retailers do not want to be seen as out of step, or less ethically concerned than their competitors.

Premium retailer Waitrose, which has a comparatively smaller appeal to energy drink buying children because of its brand is oriented towards more affluent, older adult consumers, was the first to make the ban but its competitors swiftly followed them.

Related links