Most shoppers would be prepared to ditch semi-skimmed milk in favour of 1% fat alternatives if the industry did more to help them switch, the Food Standards Agency claims.

A new FSA report, published this week, found that in taste tests 94% of regular semi-skimmed consumers viewed 1% fat milk as an acceptable alternative and that they liked the taste equally.

"If all consumers switched from semi-skimmed to 1% fat milk it would significantly reduce the saturated fat intake of the UK population," said the report.

Currently 74% of UK adults consume semi-skimmed, which usually has 1.7% fat, with 13% opting for 1% milk. There were three main barriers to wider consumption of 1% fat milk, the report claimed.

Consumer awareness of 1% fat milk was low, with some 52% of regular semi-skimmed consumers having never heard of it. Shoppers were also confused as to where 1% fat milk fitted into the overall milk market, while a significant number of consumers assumed that 1% fat milk lacked flavour.

The dairy industry should agree on a consistent cap colour for 1% as currently some product was marketed with a purple cap and some with an orange cap, according to the report. It should also develop a consistent naming strategy to help consumers understand where it sits in the category, possibly by way of a US-style categorisation by number. And 1% fat milk also needed to be better advertised and promoted.

The FSA's endorsement of 1% fat milk was welcomed by the dairy industry. "Rather than advocating removal of milk from the diet, advocating switching to 1% with all the same nutrients is a good thing for our industry," said Dairy Council director Dr Judith Bryans.

The publication of the report coincides with phase two of the FSA's satfat campaign, launched this week. The agency is ramping up its efforts to persuade consumers to switch to 1% fat milk to reduce their overall satfat intake.