Three stage investigation into the balance of healthy versus less healthy food promotions among NI food retailers

L.E. Hollywood, Sinéad Furey, Amy Burns, U McMahon-Beattie,, RK Price, ME Duffy, Elizabeth Dowler, Barbara Livingstone, P Humphreys

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportpeer-review

Abstract

Executive Summary In July 2014 the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland (FSA in NI) in conjunction with the Consumer Council Northern Ireland (CCNI) commissioned Ulster University Business School (in conjunction with its project partners: Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health (NICHE), University of Warwick and Millward Brown Ulster), to conduct research investigating the balance of healthy versus less healthy food promotions among Northern Ireland (NI) food retailers. This report provides an overview of the main findings of the threestage investigation and identifies a series of recommendations for change. Stage 1: Rapid evidence assessment of relevant food retail promotions literature Results identified no UK/NI-specific studies focused on the healthy balance of food retail promotions. While the international nature of the findings may not be fully applicable to the NI context it may be possible to elicit key learnings and policy recommendations based on international evidence. Stage 2a and 2b: In-store and online audits of food retail promotions Results reported that in-store and online food retail promotions in NI were balanced in terms of their healthy versus less healthy nutritional quality. The healthiness (nutritional status) of each product was assessed using a scoring system according to the FSA front of pack (FOP*) nutrient labelling methodology (FSA, 2013)[1] . In line with this, each product item was assigned an individual nutrient score from 1 to 3 [i.e. high (red) =1, moderate (amber) =2 and low (green) =3] for each FOP nutrient: energy (kcal), sugar (g), fat (g), saturated fat (g) and salt (g). This individual nutrient score was calculated to create an overall FOP mean composite score (i.e. 1 = red, 2 = amber or 3 = green) for each product item. The FOP mean composite score per product score ranged from 5 to 15. These scores were then assigned to the appropriate FOP category [i.e. high (red) =1, moderate (amber) =2 and low (green) =3]. A tertile split was used to assign the cut of values for the FOP mean composite score as follows: Red = < 8; Amber = 9 to 12 and; Green = 13 – 15, meaning the higher the score the healthier the product item. In using the FOP scoring system the FSA in NI encourages consumers to select products in both amber and green categories and reduce the number of products in the red items consumed as part of a healthy diet. The outcome of the in-store audit identified a positive balance in the healthiness of food retail promotions (52.5% categorised as amber/green and 47.5% of products categorised as red). The outcome of the online audit also identified a positive balance in the healthiness of food retail promotions (53% categorised as amber/green and 47% of products categorised as red). Stage 3: Interviews and case studies Results revealed retailers’ commitment to achieving this balance. Retailers and membership organisations all expressed the desire to collaborate with the goal of investing in current and future customers’ health. Conclusion This report concludes that NI retailers are currently achieving a balance in the healthiness of food retail promotions (amber/green versus red FOP categories) however all parties agree that this should continue in the interest of achieving the identified overarching theme of making the healthier choice the affordable and easy choice. As a result of this investigation, seven evidence-informed recommendations have been developed as calls to action for government, consumer bodies and NI food retailers. * Front of Pack labelling is the colour coding of the key public health nutrients: fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt (and energy) on a per portion/per 100g basis
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages168
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2016

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