A new policy recommendation for health targets for major retailers that could reduce obesity in Britain by approximately 23% and help four million people achieve a healthier weight.
Obesity in the UK has doubled since the early 1990s, with three in five people now overweight or obese. We need impactful policies to incentivise businesses to prioritise consumer health. We propose that the UK Government should implement mandatory health targets for large grocery retailers.
Our headline report outlines the case for action and our proposal for a mandatory health target for large grocery retailers. Download the report here or read it below.
We commissioned an independent analysis exploring the economic case for the retailer targets policy, including an assessment of its potential costs to businesses and the consumer.
A detailed plan for how the Government could implement our retailer targets policy, including the key policy design choices, the legislative requirements, our recommended approach and a proposed timeline.
- Despite efforts by successive governments to reduce obesity rates, its prevalence has doubled since the 1990s, and three in five people in the UK are now overweight or obese.
- We need more ambitious policies that will incentivise businesses to prioritise health and deliver the level of impact required. That is why we propose that the UK Government should implement mandatory health targets for large grocery retailers.
- Retailers would be encouraged to improve the healthiness of their offer by increasing the overall nutritional quality, as measured by a nutrient profile score . This would set the outcome but give retailers the flexibility to choose how they meet the target.
- Our modelling estimates that setting a health target for the 11 largest grocery retailers, at levels similar to those already achieved by today’s ‘best’ players, could reduce calorie purchases by around 80 kcal per person per day among the population with excess weight, and obesity prevalence by approximately 23%.This would translate to around four million fewer people living with obesity in the UK and around £20 billion in annual cost savings to society .
- Targets must be mandatory to achieve the required impact, underpinned by data reporting and monitored by a government body with the power to enforce. There should be a phased introduction with targets effective only after mandatory reporting has been in place for sufficient time. The implementation plan includes further detail.
- An economic assessment of the policy proposal suggests it is unlikely to have a significant cost to businesses or consumers. This is due to the sufficient lead-in time between announcement and enforcement, and the flexibility it provides to retailers to find the most cost-effective methods to enhance the healthiness of their sales.
 A nutrient profile score is a holistic measure of health that assigns a score to food products based on their nutritional content (energy, sugar, saturated fat, sodium, protein, fruit, vegetables and nuts, and fibre).
 Calculation based on Frontier Economics modelling of £97.8 billion annual cost of adult obesity to society, which includes estimated costs from NHS, social care and lost productivity, and wider costs to the individual calculated using Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) modelling.