Cathy Capelin, Strategic Insight Director - Nutrition at Kantar Worldpanel UK, was addressing delegates at the Westminster Food and Nutrition forum on tackling obesity, held in London last week.
British consumers had 82 billion food and drink consumption moments every year, according to Kantar. Individually that translated into 150 consumption occasions a month. “When questioned, most people will say they are interested in their health and diet, with three quarters saying they are trying to lead a healthy lifestyle,” said Capelin. “But desires relating to health and nutrition don’t always translate into action.”
This trend was most visible in the OOH sector, according to Capelin. Kantar data suggested that one in three home consumption choices are driven by health, up from about one in 10 in the 1990s, and that this category was now valued at £23 billion.
But for OOH consumption choices, that figure dropped to one in eight, with most choices driven by convenience or enjoyment. “Is it that the options aren’t available to them, or is it that they are not looking for them, or a combination of those factors?” asked Capelin. However, the number of purchase decisions driven by health in OOH is increasing and will continue to rise as the food industry attempts to tackle the obesity crisis, she predicted. “We would anticipate that area to grow, but it’s currently an area where health is well down on people’s choices.”
Healthy food needs to be tasty and convenient
Public health England wants to see a 20% calorie reduction across the industry (including the OOH sector) by 2024.
Kantar said that it was crucial that healthy food options were also deemed convenient and tasty by consumers if they were to succeed. “It’s those products that tick all those boxes that are really successful,” she said.
Shopping baskets are becoming healthier
There was more positive news when looking at the actual nutritional composition of UK shopping baskets, according to Capelin.
The average calorie density in people’s shopping baskets has come down 3% in five years, she noted, while sugar purchases are down 9% in the same period. She added that the sugar tax levy has meant a 25% reduction in the sugar that is sourced from soft drinks.
“It might feel like we’ve a long way to go in terms of public health but we are seeing a slowdown in chocolate, biscuits and cakes as people become aware of the sugar message. What we are seeing is that although consumers are more aware of saturated fats, saturated fat is still growing,” she said.
“That seesaw between sugar and fat is quite significant. But on the positive end of the chart, protein and fibre are growing in people's shopping baskets as well.
“Protein is a real buzzword at the moment. There’s lots of products with protein in them, but it’s largely driven by the fact we’re buying more dairy and poultry.”
She concluded: “Generally we’re seeing quite a positive picture, but it’s not the scale of change that the government would like. Sugar has reduced 9% but not 20% and that’s the challenge.”
Getting the right products on the shelves is another challenge for the food industry, she pointed out.
“In confectionery, where there has not been as much progress as PHE would like, there’s been an awful lot of industry activity to try to develop lower-sugar reformulated products. But they take time.”