Policy Vs Business: Well-Designed Health-Related Food Policy Should Not Let Industry Marketing Undermine Its Intended Effects; Comment on “Understanding Marketing Responses to a Tax on Sugary Drinks: A Qualitative Interview Study in the United Kingdom, 2019”

Document Type : Commentary


Department of Population Health, Environments and Society, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK


Health-related food policies, such as taxes on unhealthy food and drink, can act as catalysts for food industry to take action which may or may not align with the policy goal of improving population health. This commentary discusses the framework proposed by Forde et al (2021) in analysing the food industry marketing responses to the Soft Drink Industry Levy (SDIL), implemented in the UK in 2018. We suggest and discuss ways which may help broaden the use of the framework to other relevant policies. This includes widening the framework to cover strategies that may have not come up within the SDIL context but have been studied in other contexts. It would also be important to consider interactions between the strategies and with external factors influencing company decisions. Going forward, comprehensive evaluations of health related policies should consider likely interactions with industry marketing strategies to fully understand potential impacts.


  1. Colchero MA, Popkin BM, Rivera JA, Ng SW. Beverage purchases from stores in Mexico under the excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages: observational study. BMJ. 2016;352:h6704. doi:10.1136/bmj.h6704
  2. HM Government. Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action. 2016; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/childhood-obesity-a-plan-for-action. Accessed 18.08.22.
  3. Scarborough P, Adhikari V, Harrington RA, et al. Impact of the announcement and implementation of the UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy on sugar content, price, product size and number of available soft drinks in the UK, 2015-19: A controlled interrupted time series analysis. PLOS Medicine. 2020;17(2):e1003025. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1003025
  4. BSDA. 2021 Annual Report. 2021; https://www.britishsoftdrinks.com/write/MediaUploads/BSDA_Annual_Report_2021_FINAL.pdf. Accessed 18.08.22.
  5. BSDA. Annual Report 2016. 2016; https://www.britishsoftdrinks.com/write/MediaUploads/Publications/BSDA_Annual_report_2016.pdf. Accessed 18.08.22.
  6. Forde H, Penney TL, White M, Levy L, Greaves F, Adams J. Understanding Marketing Responses to a Tax on Sugary Drinks: A Qualitative Interview Study in the United Kingdom, 2019. International Journal of Health Policy and Management. 2022:-. doi:10.34172/ijhpm.2022.5465
  7. Cuevas S, Patel N, Thompson C, et al. Escaping the Red Queen: Health as a corporate food marketing strategy. SSM - Population Health. 2021;16:100953. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2021.100953
  8. Wood B, Williams O, Nagarajan V, Sacks G. Market strategies used by processed food manufacturers to increase and consolidate their power: a systematic review and document analysis. Globalization and Health. 2021;17(1):17. doi:10.1186/s12992-021-00667-7
  9. Dickson PR, Ginter JL. Market Segmentation, Product Differentiation, and Marketing Strategy. Journal of Marketing. 1987;51(2):1-10. doi:10.2307/1251125
  10. Fisher RJ. Durable Differentiation Strategies for Services. Journal of Services Marketing. 1991;5(1):19-28. doi:10.1108/08876049110035459
  11. Porter ME. The Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analysing Industries and Competitors New York: Free Press; 1980.
  12. Veeman M. Policy Development for Novel Foods: Issues and Challenges for Functional Food. Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie. 2002;50(4):527-539. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-7976.2002.tb00353.x
  13. Piazzai M, Wijnberg NM. Product proliferation, complexity, and deterrence to imitation in differentiated-product oligopolies. Strategic Management Journal. 2019;40(6):945-958. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.3002
  14. Keller K, Gyt, J., Rajdeep, G. Soda Taxes and Marketing Conduct: SSRN; 2022.
  15. Lauber K, Rippin H, Wickramasinghe K, Gilmore AB. Corporate political activity in the context of sugar-sweetened beverage tax policy in the WHO European Region. European Journal of Public Health. 2022;32(5):786-793. doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckac117
  16. Goltzman MK, P;. INFORM: EU Public Policy Developments in February & March 2016 DC Leaks Coca Cola Emails. . 2016; https://www.industrydocuments.ucsf.edu/docs/fncl0226. Accessed 18.01.2023.
  17. HM Government. Restricting promotions of products high in fat, sugar or salt by location and by volume price: implementation guidance. 2022; https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/restricting-promotions-of-products-high-in-fat-sugar-or-salt-by-location-and-by-volume-price/restricting-promotions-of-products-high-in-fat-sugar-or-salt-by-location-and-by-volume-price-implementation-guidance. Accessed 18.08.22.

Articles in Press, Accepted Manuscript
Available Online from 24 January 2023
  • Receive Date: 22 August 2022
  • Revise Date: 18 January 2023
  • Accept Date: 23 January 2023
  • First Publish Date: 24 January 2023