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Nutritional Choices: Consumers and Governments

October 2022

The surge in diet-related non-communicable diseases has led government authorities to take action, pushing the food industry to prioritise nutritional quality. Among the measures taken, front-of-pack labels have come to prominence, particularly in Europe. This report looks at nutritional choices from the perspective of both consumers and governments by giving insight into what consumers want versus what they eat, and how the food industry is responding to government regulation.

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Key findings

Consumers’ focus has shifted from less healthy ingredients to specific positive nutrients

Consumers’ perception of healthy food is evolving in a way that a reduction in less healthy ingredients from the product recipes is not enough on its own. In line with the adoption of a more holistic approaches by consumers, nutrients providing specific health benefits, such as protein and fibre, are increasingly getting traction in consumers’ food choices.

Daily per capita purchasing of less healthy ingredients has increased, driven mainly by developed regions

Despite negative publicity and increasing consumer awareness, per capita per day purchasing of sugar and salt in packaged food increased over the review period and exceeded the daily recommended amount, especially in developed countries, where packaged food sales are high, in line with high rates of urbanisation.

The surge in non-communicable diseases has led governments to take action regarding the food industry

Non-communicable diseases, such as obesity and heart disease, have increased around the globe, and poor diets in terms of nutrition quality are seen as one of the main contributors to this escalating issue. As a result, authorities have developed regulations mostly targeting highly processed packaged food products that are high in salt/fat/sugar, as well as guidelines recommending the correct daily intake of key nutrients in order to improve public health.

There are positive signs in terms of a willingness among key players to comply with front-of-pack labelling schemes

In response to the measures taken by the governments, such as front-of-pack labelling (FOP), many key players in the food industry have reformulated their signature brands to better comply with the restrictions and score higher in the rankings of nutrition profiling schemes, such as Nutri-Score in Europe.

Scope
Key findings
Consumers prioritise nutrition over the reduction of less healthy ingredients
Health is the main consumer driver of nutrition choices
Developed countries drive calorie purchases in packaged food
Regional differences in the contribution of each category to total energy purchasing
The contribution of fat and carbs to calorie intake depends greatly on eating trends
Sugar driven by well-established snacking habits in developed regions
Salt intake is above the recommended levels in key markets
Middle East and Africa shows the strongest growth in total purchasing of protein
Despite low global per capita purchasing, fibre stands out, primarily in developed countries
Positive nutrition prevails in product health positioning around the globe
No sugar is the leading sugar-related claim, driven by confectionery
High protein claim is widely used by the food giants
Surge in the high fibre claim is driven by the increasing focus on gut health
Prevalence of low-fat claims is hampered by their association with “processed”
Obesity is the main concern for authorities to address to improve public health
Regulations and guidelines in the food industry: Differences and similarities
Front-of-pack labels (FOP): An overview of purposes of different labels
FOP nutrition labels are better established in Western Europe
UK’s battle against high fat/salt/sugar food reflects increasing obesity…
…and gets an immediate response from the food industry
Fighting against trans fat is on the agenda of the EU
Obesity is also a growing concern in Latin America
US: High salt intake is on the agenda of the FDA
Canada: New regulation mandates the use of an FOP nutrition label in packaged food
Making nutritious food affordable is key to improving public health
More impactful warning labels could be used to get consumers’ attention
Focusing on permissible indulgence is one way to benefit from FOP nutrition labelling
FOP labelling schemes offer opportunities for substitutes to overcome health halo challenge
Key takeaways for authorities
Key takeaways for businesses
Nutrition methodology
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