Kantar urges VAT cut on healthy food to tackle obesity

The government should abandon its policy of “nudging” consumers towards healthier food and instead launch shock advertising tactics and financial incentives, a new report has claimed.

Cash-strapped families were increasingly turning to less healthy foods because they were cheaper, while industry attempts to reformulate had not gone far enough, the study by Kantar Worldpanel found.

The report called for ministers to bring in reduced or VAT-free taxation for the healthiest foods, adding that in the past two years sales of frozen foods and chilled ready meals - considered by Kantar to be less healthy - had risen 11% and 25% respectively. “VAT could be reduced on products in the healthiest 20% of each category, which would make consumers more likely to choose those products without manufacturers being forced to lower their costs,” Kantar said. This would provide a “financial prize” for those who prioritised Health.

Report author Giles Quick added: The report suggests the horsemeat scandal caused just a temporary blip in the trend with consumers returning to “bad habits”.

“We need a government intervention strategy starting with children and working our way up,” said report author Giles Quick.”The Responsibility Deal has not delivered results and the next step is for the government to intervene more strongly with a target-setting approach.”