Document Type : Original Article
Medical Research Council Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK
National Institute for Health Research Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
School of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Wessex, Southampton Science Park, Innovation Centre, Southampton, UK
Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London, London, UK
As part of the childhood obesity strategy, the UK Government has introduced regulations to restrict the ways high fat salt and sugar (HFSS) products can be promoted in retail settings from October 2022. This study explored (i) consumers’ views on the likely impact of the UK legislation restricting the placement and promotion of HFSS products on their shopping behaviours and (ii) consumers’ beliefs about who is responsible for healthy eating.
Using a cross-sectional study design, qualitative semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of women who shopped at a discount supermarket. Thematic analysis was employed to identify key themes.
Participants’ (n = 34) had a median age of 35 years and over half were in paid employment. Five themes were identified: (1) The legislation is acceptable, but people can still (and should be able to) buy HFSS items; (2) The legislation is likely to have more impact on shoppers who do not plan their shopping; (3) Affordability of healthy food is just as, or more, important than the legislation; (4) It’s up to the individual to eat healthily; and (5) Government and retailers can better support consumers to make healthy choices.
Most participants were optimistic about the incoming regulations and believed that it would support consumers to make healthier food choices. Many raised concerns, however, that the high price of healthy foods and continued availability of unhealthy foods within the stores could undermine the legislation’s benefits. Coupling the legislation with interventions to promote and reduce the costs of healthier products would go some way to ensure its success. Raising awareness about marketing strategies that play into consumer concerns for cost and autonomy could further increase acceptance of the policy.