Background Achieving healthy eating targets for low income households can be difficult because of economic barriers. Several UK supermarkets have introduced ‘value line’ or ‘economy line’ foods to improve their attractiveness to low income consumers.
Materials and methods The costs and nutrient contents of five ‘economy’ line products of four major English supermarkets – Asda, KwikSave, Sainsbury and Tesco – were compared with branded (but not ‘own label’) equivalents. Single samples of tinned tomatoes, long-life orange juice, potatoes, sausages and white bread were purchased in each supermarket. They represented items of potential importance in relation to ‘healthy’ choices in the shopping baskets of low income households. Nutrients analysed were fat, sodium, potassium, iron, calcium, vitamin C, and energy.
Results Economy line foods had a nutrient composition similar to and often better than the branded goods. The economy line products frequently had nutrient contents more in line with the Balance of Good Health (e.g. lower fat and sodium) compared with the branded goods. In terms of nutrients per pence, the economy line products were far better value for money compared with the branded lines.
Conclusion Economy line foods represent excellent value for money and are not nutritionally inferior to the branded products. They have a potentially important role to play in the promotion of healthy eating, especially amongst low income households.