It is no secret that the average diet of people in the UK could better reflect the EatWell Guidelines. Foods high in salt, sugar and fat make up 20% of FMCG sales and is growing at a rate of 2.7% – faster than any other sales of grocery products on the market. In addition, lifestyles have changed in the past two years. Most UK adults are engaging in a hybrid work model with 13% working full time at home, leading to a more sedentary lifestyle.

Around 28% of adults in the UK suffer from obesity, 36% are overweight and, by the time we reach 2050, if nothing is done, the NHS will face £9.7 billion in additional costs. As Co-Chairs of the Collaboration for Healthier Lives (CHL) UK movement, we know that by trying to make a difference, we have the potential to actively address the country’s growing health problems related to food consumption and also address the potential knock-on costs to the National Health Service (NHS) in the future.

So, what can be done and how does CHL’s mission align?

The over-arching goal of the CHL coalition at the Consumer Goods Forum is to empower healthier people globally.  CHL UK brings together forward-looking businesses and public health authorities, academics, NGOs, and leading charities to develop new approaches to drive healthier and more sustainable choices in the UK and share the resultant value.  

Together, we develop new in-store and digital interventions to help customers and employees understand, find, and choose healthier and more sustainable food and non-food options – driving holistic health including oral hygiene and skin health.

The good news is that the average UK consumer living is looking for help to choose healthier options and to lead healthier lives. However, they want help to access food that not only tastes good but is affordable and easy to find.

For its part, the government has taken a step forward by introducing its new HFSS (High in Fat, Salt or Sugar) legislation in the UK, which seeks to address Britain’s obesity crisis. It will apply constraints on the promotions of food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt. The legislation is set to be introduced into law in October 2022.  A survey conducted by Nielson IQ on how UK customers feel about the HFSS showed that:

  • 71% of UK consumers feel that that the topic of food and nutrition is either “extremely” or “very” important to them.
  • 57% of UK consumers believe that companies should be taxed heavily if they continue to produce or promote unhealthy choices.
  • 54% of UK consumers pay attention to labelling/food nutritional values when grocery shopping.

These figures point to consumers looking for retailers and manufacturers to help them make their shopping baskets healthier.

What role can retailers & manufacturers play?

We acknowledge that we are in a key position to drive change at pace. Bold, forward looking companies are the ones that can really have an impact on the nation’s health, and we will do it quicker if we work together.

Meanwhile, public sector authorities, NGOs and academia can really help us pin-point key areas where change is needed.

Today’s business needs to be driven not just by profit but by purpose. Collaboration between stakeholders is key and it is essential to redesign the model, create shared value, while improving people’s health and the health of the planet.

For example, in March 2022, we were happy to share two papers in the PLOS Medicine Journal, conducted by the Nuffield Dept. of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford. Data collected as part of the study came through the CGF’s CHL UK initiative, which ran in-store trials in leading supermarkets in 2019. Tesco, Sainsburys and Co-op supermarkets provided data for the analyses with the sole purpose of shifting consumption patterns by understanding consumer behaviour.

The way forward:

The introduction of the HFSS regulation signals the desire to make some changes to the way people in the UK consume food. Retailers and manufacturers must now actively engage in innovative solutions for the good of their consumers, with the goal of pushing for long-lasting change in the UK (and in the world) on healthier lives.

In 2019, we published our first progress report  and we look forward to publishing with Oxford and Impact on Urban Health the second chapter of our collaboration in June 2022.  

We hope that CGF members looking to take action and join CHL UK will pave the way for a new type of collaboration – one where we can all play a key role in helping people live healthier lives in the UK.