For retailer targets to achieve their intended goal, they must be implemented effectively. We have developed an implementation plan for this policy, which is summarised below.

  • Mandatory. We have seen that past voluntary action is insufficient. An industry-wide shift in retailer portfolios at the scale we need to see will only be guaranteed with a mandatory targets policy. Primary legislation would be recommended for the powers needed to implement, monitor and enforce this policy, and to allow compliance incentivised through penalties [14]. For more information on the legislation required for this policy, see the legal section of the implementation plan.

  • Underpinned by mandatory data collection and reporting. Transparent and industry-wide food data collection will be crucial to assess and monitor retailers against targets. This could build on existing work to establish appropriate metrics, data requirements and monitoring through the Food Data Transparency Partnership (FDTP). Data collection should be made mandatory to compel business to report consistently and comprehensively across all the required metrics. A range of supplementary measures should also be monitored to help identify any potential unintended consequences. These would include progress at regional and sociodemographic levels to monitor progress on health inequities, and total calories sold to ensure sales weighted averages are not increasing while total calories purchased increase.
  • Enforced by proportionate but sufficiently sized penalties to motivate compliance. We recommend a penalty framework similar to that established for the Groceries Supply Code [15], with a maximum penalty up to 1% of annual turnover, depending on the magnitude of non-compliance and efforts to comply. With sufficient lead time to enforcement, businesses would have time to make changes to their practices to achieve the targets and avoid the costs of fines. To foster innovation and progress, incentives such as innovation grants or a healthy retailer certification (similar to B Corp status) could be offered as a reward to retailers surpassing targets ahead of schedule.

  • Set at an absolute threshold. To recognise retailers that have already made progress to improve their offer and to ensure retailers operate on a level playing field, targets should drive change to a single absolute value (≥ 69 for converted NPM score).

  • Effective at least one year after data collection is in place. Data collection must begin before targets can be enforced. A transition period of at least one year should be provided between mandatory data collection and enforcement of targets, to establish reporting processes and allow businesses time to put plans in place to meet the targets. Legislation would outline targets that retailers are required to meet before or by a specified date. See implementation plan for detailed timeline.
  • Monitored and enforced by existing government bodies. We propose that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) hold the powers to enforce the targets and impose penalties, leveraging its main objective to protect public health and consumer interests in relation to food. This would be an expansion of the current role of the FSA, which may also require additional enforcement powers to impose the size of penalty proposed (see the implementation plan for more information). 

  • Only for large grocery retailers that sell directly to consumers. We have classified the 11 largest UK retailers as in-scope of our targets, which collectively represent over 90% of in-home food consumption according to Nesta's analysis of Kantar data. This definition is similar to the statutory definition outlined in the Groceries Supply Code and acknowledges the significant operational capacity of these retailers to meet targets while aiming to mitigate the challenges smaller businesses might face under such a policy.

We urgently need to reshape our food system so that the healthier option is the easiest option for everyone, regardless of where you buy your food. By implementing ambitious yet achievable mandatory health targets for retailers, we can make real progress towards these goals and start turning the tide on obesity once and for all.

[14]  It may be possible to implement aspects of this policy proposal by secondary legislation, including which retailers should be in scope, mandatory data collection and an enforcement element. However, this is not recommended because of its increased vulnerability to legal challenge, parliamentary scrutiny and the uncertainty that powers under existing Acts will carry the full extent of required regulation. We commissioned independent legal advice on the legislation required for this policy proposal. See implementation plan for more detail.

[15] The Groceries Supply Code of Practice establishes the rules for how grocery retailers can engage with their suppliers, to ensure that competition in the grocery sector is maintained and all businesses are engaging in fair and lawful dealing.

Authors

Lydia Leon

Lydia Leon

Lydia Leon

Senior Analyst, healthy life mission

Lydia works as a senior analyst in the healthy life mission team.

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Husain Taibjee

Husain Taibjee

Husain Taibjee

Analyst, healthy life mission

Husain joined Nesta in 2022 as an analyst and will help to deliver Nesta’s healthy life mission.

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Lauren Bowes Byatt

Lauren Bowes Byatt

Lauren Bowes Byatt

Deputy Director, healthy life mission

Lauren is the Deputy Director of the healthy life mission.

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Hugo Harper

Hugo Harper

Hugo Harper

Mission Director, healthy life mission

Hugo leads Nesta's healthy life mission.

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Elena Mariani

Elena Mariani

Elena Mariani

Principal Data Scientist, healthy life mission

Elena is a principal data scientist for the healthy life mission.

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Isabel Stewart

Isabel Stewart

Isabel Stewart

Data Scientist, Data Analytics Practice

Izzy is a Data Scientist working in the Data Analytics practice.

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Jessica Jenkins

Jessica Jenkins

Jessica Jenkins

Senior Policy Advisor (Health), Rapid Insights Team

Jess is a senior policy advisor in our Rapid Insights Team (RIT).

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Caitlin Turner

Caitlin Turner

Caitlin Turner

Senior Analyst, healthy life mission

Caitlin joins Nesta as a senior analyst in the healthy life mission.

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