New World’s popular Little Shop promotion is the subject of a scathing post on economist Gareth Morgan’s blog.

Written by Morgan’s offsider Geoff Simmons, it said the tactic of offering toys to encourage kids to pester their parents had long been used by fastfood companies but was now being used “as part of the war between the supermarket duopoly”.

New World customers are given a plastic miniature grocery item for every $40 spent.

In the blog post, titled ‘New World wants to turn your kids into fat zombie consumers’, Mr Simmons also questioned the nutrition value of the food items that have been chosen to be turned into the plastic toys.

“The problem is that, like most advertising, only the companies that can afford it will take part. Those are the companies with bigger margins, which usually means they are selling highly processed food, stripped of nutrients and packed full of sugar, fat and salt,” Mr Simmons said.

“Why are we allowing these products to advertise directly to kids? The answer is that past and present governments have set up a weak-kneed system of self-regulation for food advertising to kids. There are so many loopholes in it, it’s not funny.”

Foodstuffs’ corporate PR director Antoinette Shallue said the products used for the promotion were representative of the types of products customers bought from Foodstuffs supermarkets.

“This year, as with previous, there is a wide range of products including fresh vegetables, fruit and meat, examples of these include bananas, pineapple, potatoes, fresh chicken and tuna,” Ms Shallue said.

“Additionally, there is Little Shop milk and cheese and we know dairy is key to ensuring children have enough calcium in their diet and grow strong bones. Eggs also feature and eggs are considered one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, containing a little bit of almost every nutrient we need.”

Consumer NZ has previously written about the marketing of food to children.

We believe it’s time the government took notice of the World Health Organization’s call for governments to have policies that reduce the impact on children of marketing foods high in saturated fat, trans fats, free sugars and salt.

We also want any future regulation to consider all forms of marketing, including the promotional tactics used on packaging.

Last year, Professor of Population Nutrition and Global Health at the University of Auckland, Boyd Swinburn, told Consumer NZ he thinks the current system does little to protect children.

“It’s extraordinary that since this issue was first raised nearly 20 years ago governments have been doing nothing to protect children from the marketing of food directly to children. They are also failing to support parents by allowing these persuasive techniques to be so widespread," Professor Swinburn said.