Government's Great Swapathon dubbed 'insulting rip-off'

Shoppers who want to cash in the £50 "swap" vouchers rolled out by the Government to encourage healthy lifestyles, need to spend more than double their worth in order to redeem them, according the Children's Food Campaign (CFC).

Great Swapathon: an insulting rip-off says the Children’s Food Campaign
Great Swapathon: an insulting rip-off says the Children’s Food Campaign

Analysis published today (14 January) by the group claims that shoppers who want to use the £50 of swap vouchers as part of the Department of Health-backed Change4Life anti-obesity campaign, need to spend more than £117.05 in order to redeem them.  

According to the CFC, to make the advertised savings, made available from Wednesday through around one in 10 Asda stores, shoppers would have to spend at least £117.05 with Asda, JJB Sports and Weight Watchers.

The group claims that more than half of the savings come from a discount on signing up to a three-month Weight Watchers plan – which is available on the company’s website, even without the voucher.  

Without this discount, the voucher’ is simply advertising says the group, and the discounts available through the voucher books fall to £24.25, which require a spend of at least £87.20 to redeem.

As a result, the much-promoted £250m savings claimed by the Department of Health fall to less than half this amount, the group says.

It also points out that in several cases, it would be cheaper to buy a non-branded version of the same product, without the discount voucher.

For example, 500g of Kellogg’s corn flakes are £1.97 at Asda, reduced to £1.47 with the discount voucher, while 500g of Asda corn flakes, which are lower in salt, cost just 98p.

Christine Haigh at the Children’s Food Campaign, said:"‘This analysis exposes the Great Swapathon for what it really is – a great marketing opportunity for the companies involved, but of little benefit to consumers’ pockets or health.  

"Sadly, this attempt at promoting healthier products is dwarfed by advertising for junk food. Until the Government takes steps to address this, such as by protecting children from unhealthy food marketing, we’re unlikely to see the UK shift from its unenviable position at the top of Europe’s obesity league table."

Haigh added that it was "insulting" that the Government had taken free swimming away from children and now had "the cheek" to offer a one-off discount on the price of a single family swimming session.

A DH spokeswoman said: "Every Swapathon booklet offers over £50 of swap vouchers, including £19 worth of savings at ASDA, over £30 off Weight Watchers online, £5 off footwear at JJB Sports. There is no minimum spend, no strings attached, significant cost savings - they do what they say. This initiative will make it that bit easier to try healthier alternatives at lower cost."