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We have witnessed first-hand success in addressing issues through targeted, localised action

Health campaigners are understandably disappointed by the latest u-turn on HFSS regulations. However, the HFSS rules are just one vital component in helping shoppers make healthier choices. To truly tackle societal health issues in the UK, they will need to form part of a wider network of multi-stakeholder action.

Two-thirds of adults in England are above a healthy weight and one in three children leaving primary school are already overweight or living with obesity. People increasingly want to make healthier choices for themselves and their families, and it’s essential for retailers and food businesses to help fulfil that need. Consumer goods businesses can help by responding to the barriers, motivators and needs of diverse audience groups. We must prioritise initiatives that empower people to live healthier lives, rather than simply telling them what they can and can’t eat.

Retailers have the power to influence consumer behaviour and deliver impact, and must tackle health issues through evidence-based initiatives that drive real change. While HFSS legislation is part of that solution, we must ensure a range of interventions if we are to address the complex societal challenge that is obesity. Real impact happens when we collaborate to share knowledge, insights and learnings, leveraging our collective resources to address health issues and build healthier lives for people in the UK.

At The Consumer Goods Forum’s Collaboration for Healthier Lives (CHL) Coalition, we are working collectively as a group of consumer goods industry leaders to accelerate such impact, supporting businesses on their journey to drive action at scale for healthier lives globally. Legislative action has its place, but it alone cannot address the complex barriers to healthier food options.

For example, in our experience, these levers often result in price inflation, acting as a barrier for the most vulnerable in society to access food. We have witnessed first-hand success in addressing such issues through targeted, localised action. For instance, in light of research that showed price was a key barrier to healthy eating for many people in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, we launched a targeted pricing promotion with Tesco UK. Its ‘Fresh 5’ programme rotated five different packs of fresh fruit or vegetables on special offer, resulting in a double-digit increase in sales. Following the pilot’s success, the programme was rolled out nationally.

The scale of the health challenge ahead is vast – but so is the opportunity. There is a huge power in the confidence people place in retailers and brands: brands that take a positive stand on social or environmental issues see a huge boost in trust. So, while legislative frameworks are an important first step, a range of actions are needed to address complex, societal health issues. Together with our members, we are building insights on the vital success factors manufacturers and retailers should consider when designing programmes for healthier lives.