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Nestlé Tuck-Shop Truths study reveals positive results

Nestlé’s 2014 Tuck-Shop Truths study reveals positive results at private primary schools

In 2013 Nestlé South Africa announced the results of its first Tuck-Shop Truths study, which revealed that the majority of Gauteng’s children are consuming fizzy, fattening, fun and frivolous food at the private schools surveyed. This year, the Tuck-Shop Truths II survey was expanded to give a holistic view of what private primary schools are selling children on a national basis and the results have returned more positive results.

The second study was conducted amongst several private primary schools throughout South Africa, whose tuck-shop operators were audited to determine their product offering, were asked which items not stocked are requested by children, as well as their opinions on pupil’s tuck-shop usage and eating habits while at school. In addition, mothers of children who attend private primary schools completed a separate survey online.

“While the amount of junk food and fizzy drinks is still a concern, the study did reveal an overall improvement in the types of food and beverages being offered on a national basis,” says Naazneen Khan, Health and Wellness Manager at Nestlé South Africa. She highlights some of the findings below:

Only 6% of the tuck-shop operators believe that the children at their school eat ‘far too much junk food’. Additionally, 65% of tuck-shop operators said that the children consume a good balance of healthy and junk food during school lunchtimes.

It was refreshing to see that most (94%) of the tuck-shops stock unflavoured still or sparkling bottled water and that more of the tuck-shops surveyed focus on healthier beverage alternatives such as fruit juice (88%), iced tea (82%) and flavoured water (76%) rather than traditional soft drinks, although these remain popular.

Another improvement is that 71% of the respondents sell salad – a fantastic increase on the 35% recorded last year in Gauteng schools.

Perhaps the most alarming finding of the survey is that 18% of private primary schools sell energy drinks. Of the beverages that tuck-shops don’t stock, these are most in demand at 25%.. This excludes sports drinks which are stocked at 50% of schools surveyed and is one of the most asked-after beverages, at 13%.

The importance of dairy is being underestimated with 25% of private school tuck-shops not selling any dairy products. Of the schools that do stock dairy products, it’s good to see that they’re making healthier choices, with 58% stocking fresh milk.

Worryingly, fresh fruit is not as popular on a national basis as it was in Gauteng last year. While the number of tuck-shops that sell fresh fruit remains about the same (29% vs. 30% last year), the demand has decreased from 30% to 0%. This could however be as a result of fruit being reported as the most popular lunchbox item among private school pupils, at 78%, and children therefore not requesting this from the tuck-shop.

Popcorn, biltong and nuts are the most popular of the healthier snacks. Popcorn remains one of the most liked snack items overall with 82% of private school tuck-shops offering this item. Seventy-eight percent of tuck-shops nationally stock biltong and it is still the most in-demand snack item from those not stocking it, at 38%. The number of tuck-shops that stock nuts has also increased drastically, from 20% in Gauteng to 65% throughout South Africa.

That being said, less nutritious snack options remain the most popular with chips and chocolates being the two snack items being stocked the most by private school tuck-shops (100% and 82% respectively).

Baked goods sold at most tuck-shops surveyed were tied between brownies, donuts, pies and sausage rolls, all at 77%. This indicates a strong interest in sugar-filled bakery goods overall.

While hot dogs are sold by most (94%) private primary school tuck-shops, followed by burgers (81%) and white bread sandwiches (75%), hot meals are popular too with macaroni and cheese coming out tops (79%), followed interestingly by curry and rice (71%), lasagne (64%) and chicken a la king (57%). The results showed that private primary school children want pizza, with this food being the most requested of the meal options not stocked (50%).

According to tuck-shop operators, while 15% of private school children never use the tuck-shop, 41% use it every day; with an average spend of R26.00 per occasion. This is contradictory to the results gained from the survey completed by parents of private primary school children, with 39% saying they never give their child money for the tuck-shop and only 3% giving their children money for the tuck-shop every day. Either the tuck-shop operators don’t have an accurate perception of how many of the children in their schools use the facility, or it’s a case of children perhaps using pocket money for the tuck-shop and not receiving it from their parents specifically for tuck-shop use.

Overall, there is a call for more control. When asked in what way the nutrition of children at their school can be improved or enhanced during school lunch breaks, some of the recommendations from tuck-shop operators included:

  • Sell healthy food only
  • Sell a wider variety of nutritional food
  • Limit the amount of money children are given by their parents
  • Parents should inform the school what they want their children to consume and the school must adhere to those instructions
  • Invite a nutritionist to the school to make pupils more aware of healthy food

It is commonly known that proper nutrition during childhood and adolescence is necessary for optimal growth and development, as well as for academic success and emotional wellbeing.

“The tuck-shop operators are spot on in recognising the need for more education regarding nutrition. Parents need to encourage their children to learn good eating habits and the education process starts at home. If parents instil healthy eating habits from the beginning they’ll help promote a longer and healthier life for their children,” says Khan.

Good nutrition prior to adulthood leads to improved long-term health. Child and teen health issues such as eating disorders, obesity, dental cavities and iron-deficiency anaemia can be prevented through good nutrition.

A calcium-rich diet during childhood promotes optimal bone density, which is not only needed for teen growth spurts but also to reduce the risk of bone loss in later life. Likewise, a child who practices a diet with the ideal ratio of healthy fats significantly improves their future heart health.


Note to editor:

Last year, a total of 20 private primary schools in Gauteng were audited through stock assessment and through interviews to collect the opinions of the operators.

A total of 652 online interviews were conducted with mothers, located nationally, with children aged between 6 – 12 years who attend a government or private school. The mothers had access to the internet.

This year, a total of 16 private primary schools throughout South Africa were audited through stock assessment and through interviews to collect the opinions of the operators. The audit happened in winter, which can account for particular food stocked and consumed.

A total of 282 online interviews were conducted with mothers, located nationally, with children aged between 6 – 12 years who attend a private school. The mothers had access to the internet.

The study was conducted by Bateleur Brand Planning on behalf of Nestlé South Africa. For more details, please contact Gordon Hooper on 011 460 5100 or 083 212 2739. Please visit: for more information.

About Nestlé South Africa

Is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nestlé Switzerland. The company was formally registered in South Africa about 98 years ago. The first Nestlé products arrived in South Africa during the 1870s, and the company’s presence in South Africa was formally entrenched on 7 July 1916 when it registered as a company. In order to meet the demands of a growing country, local production started in 1927 with the purchase of the South African Condensed Milk Company Ltd factory in Donnybrook, and the Estcourt and Franklin factories. Nestlé South Africa also services neighbouring countries – Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia. Nestlé is committed to bringing consumers tastier, healthier choices in their product offering, and will continuously strive to become the leading Nutrition, Health and Wellness company.