Consumers blame themselves first and foremost for the nation’s poor diet and mounting weight problems - not food and drink manufacturers or supermarkets.
The surprise admission came in a survey of consumer attitudes towards supermarkets conducted exclusively for The Grocer by market research company, HI Europe.
It coincided with the publication of the Commons Select Committee on Health report warning that obesity was one of the biggest social and medical problems facing children and adults.
Asked who was responsible for the nation’s mounting obesity problem, 45% of the 2,124 consumers polled admitted they were chiefly
responsible; 16% blamed manufacturers and 12% the media. Just 5% believed that supermarkets were responsible.
However, they said they needed help to tackle the problem. While 40% accepted responsibility for eating more healthily, 52% said they looked to health experts for guidance and 47% to government and the media while 37% expected guidance from the supermarkets and 31% looked to food and drink manufacturers.
Consumers did not resent government and media interference on diet as long as guidance was clear.
Food and Drink Federation spokeswoman, Kate Snowden, said: “It’s not surprising consumers recognise their responsibility for their own diet: we’re not in a nanny state. They look to government and manufacturers for guidance to give them the information to make those choices.”
Labelling needed to be clear and informative, she said in response to the select committee’s proposals for “traffic light” labelling according to energy density.
But, as the obesity report was published, Tesco announced that it would trial traffic light labelling on a range of its own label products.
Tesco marketing director Tim Mason said: “We’ve listened to our customers and they find current labelling confusing. Many want to be able to make informed choices about the food they eat and they tell us that providing clear and easy-to-understand nutritional information will help.”
An Asda spokesman added: “We are supportive of clear, open and honest labelling. Traffic light labelling sounds interesting but let’s see if it works.”
Our exclusive consumer research with HI Europe also raises serious questions as to whether there is a consumer backlash against the multiples. Those consumers who took part in the attitudinal survey said they did trust the food they bought in supermarkets and thought quality had improved.
>>p31 The power paradox
By Liz Hamson