Ben Davies, founder at Vypr, the innovation intelligence platform, has highlighted the increasing public concern over the issue of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) and said that the writing was 'on the wall' for retailers and manufacturers who needed to spearhead innovation.
The call comes as a survey by Vypr of 5,000 consumers found that most thought that less fat, sugar and salt, was a good idea with 71% of those being positive about reducing these in supermarket foods. However, of those people surveyed 89% said they would still buy sweets or chocolate if they were not on offer.
The research identified that despite planned changes to product promotions with the incoming HFSS legislation and the government’s recent abandonment of a proposed salt and sugar tax, strong consumer demand for these products remain.
Last month, the Government delayed the implementation of restrictions on advertising and volume promotions for HFSS foods. But the ban on HFSS promotions in prominent in-store locations, such as at the end of aisles, is set to go ahead in October.
The research also confirmed affordability is a bigger barrier than taste when it comes to making healthy food and drink choices. Asked what might stop them from buying healthier food products, 44% cited price and that they were less affordable. In comparison, only 17% said that they don’t taste as good.
“The writing is on the wall for retailers and manufacturers. The government’s ruling out of a proposed salt and sugar tax as part of the National Food Strategy heightens the opportunity for them to seize the day," said Davies.
“With increasing public concern over this issue and long-term brand reputation at stake, the onus is now on brands and suppliers to push things forward and not lose momentum – we shouldn’t have to rely on government legislation to drive this change. It’s a great opportunity to bring about the next phase of food and drink innovation.”
The findings align with Vypr's wider consumer research around the National Food Strategy which identified that 83% believe there is a need for new or reformulated food products that are healthier.
Vypr’s research further identified that consumers are checking labels but have little idea about new restrictions on unhealthy food. Nearly three-quarters (73%) said they check nutrition labels when purchasing food products, showing a shift towards increased awareness of healthy ingredients. Only 15% of consumers were aware of the incoming HFSS restrictions.
Davies added: “Changing legislation is bringing with it an enormous amount of opportunity for success for retailers and suppliers. There are so many different variables when you’re looking at raw materials and ingredients. Sugar is 2,000 years old, so why are we still making products out of sugar? There’s lots of interesting ways of getting sweetness and texture into products. Reframing innovation in a scientific way is the only way the industry and public health are both going to win long term.
“As confusing as recent policy decisions may appear, a clear picture is emerging – innovation will be the driving force of success amidst a constantly shifting environment.”