Tesco, Britain's biggest supermarket chain, committed to increase its sales of healthy food to 65% of total sales by 2025 following pressure from some shareholders to set targets.
Some investors have been calling for Tesco, which has 27% of the UK's grocery market, to sell more healthy food, saying it was lagging rivals in its efforts to encourage healthy eating and combat obesity in the country.
Investors Robeco, JO Hambro and others, led by responsible investment group ShareAction, proposed a resolution over healthy food sales in February for the company's AGM, which is usually held in late June or early July.
Tesco said on Friday its 65% healthy products sales target would represent a jump from the current level of 58% and it would use the government's nutrient profiling model to define those products.
Jessica Attard, head of health at ShareAction, said, "Today’s news demonstrates the power of investor engagement. Tesco’s new plans are an important recognition of the role supermarkets play in shaping our diets, at a time when our health has never been more critical."
It said it would report its progress against the targets annually, and also laid out plans to increase sales of plant-based meat alternatives by 300% by 2025 and make products like ready meals healthier through changing the ingredients to include more vegetables.
"Customers are telling us they want to eat a more healthy, sustainable diet" Tesco's chief executive Ken Murphy said in a statement.
"Today we are sharing our stretching new ambitions on health, and committing to reporting our progress against them."
Leading health organisations, as well as Tesco’s Health Charity Partners – Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK – welcomed Tesco's new targets.
Managing director of The Consumer Goods Forum, Wai-Chan Chan, commented, “We applaud Tesco for making this ambitious commitment. Tesco has been an important member of The Consumer Goods Forum for many years, working closely with us on topics like food waste and health.
"Tesco is also Co-Chair of our Collaboration for Healthier Lives UK initiative, and their drive to empower people to adopt healthier lives has been a critical part of its success. We very much look forward to continuing to work with them on these important topics as we take collective action to drive positive change across our membership and around the world.”
Anna Taylor, executive director of The Food Foundation said, “Tesco sets out some great commitments today. They should be proud of the speed at which they have added more veg to the ready meal category as part of their commitment to Peas Please. I hope other retailers are taking note."