shopper supermarket salad

Almost a million customers a month are turning away from ultra-processed food products, according to a new poll for The Grocer.

The nationally representative survey of 1,000 adults, by food industry category consultants Levercliff, shows a huge surge in the importance being placed on health by shoppers as the cost of living crisis begins to ease.

It suggests a whopping three million people in the UK have started avoiding UPFs in the past three months alone.

Levercliff found 12.8 million shoppers had changed their diets because of fears over UPFs in February, up from 10.5 million in October 2023.

The survey also demonstrates strong support for an online ban on advertising for HFSS food and a 9pm watershed for TV ads. Some 42% of shoppers said they supported a ban on HFSS ads before a 9pm watershed, while a further 29% said they strongly supported it.

Meanwhile, 41% supported a ban on online ads for HFSS products, with a further 31% strongly in support.

The survey comes after a Westminster inquiry into the health threats posed by UPFs and HFSS foods last week launched a call for written evidence.

The House of Lords Select Committee on Food, Diet and Obesity issued the appeal yesterday, in a bid to investigate the links between types of food and the obesity crisis.

National Food Strategy author Henry Dimbleby told the inquiry there should be a complete ban on HFSS and UPF advertising.

Earlier this month The Grocer revealed the majority of consumers believe UPFs are bad for their health.

Research from the EIT Food Consumer Observatory also called for much greater clarity on the food to be given to consumers so they could make more informed decisions.

“I think for us the key takeout is that industry does need to give serious consideration to the growing awareness of consumers to the negative publicity around UPF’s and look at how products can be viewed in a more positive light,” said Leverciff MD Clodagh Sherrard.

“With an additional three million consumers in just over a 12-week period claiming to have made changes to their diet as a result of concerns about UPFs, food manufacturers cannot put their heads in the sand around this issue.

“Whilst the issue of UPFs has probably been bubbling under the surface for a couple of years now, the reality is the cost of living crisis kept it at bay as consumers were more focused on just surviving financially. However, as we have seen from our tracking survey, health is very much back on the agenda, which will put a greater spotlight on UPFs.”