The United Kingdom is on a mission to address the escalating challenges posed by unhealthy eating habits and obesity within its borders. Despite our culinary fame for roast dinners and quality meat, a quarter of the UK’s population grapples with obesity, marking a significant shift in our national health. In examining public opinion of health initiatives led by both the government and retailers, we aim to discern what measures are appreciated to combat this health crisis.
The introduction of calorie counts on menus last year stands out as a prime example of the government’s attempt to shape eating habits. However, the effectiveness of this strategy is questioned as members of the public voiced that they overlook the calorie information when indulging in pleasurable dining experiences.
“If I’m eating out I don’t want to look at the calories because I want to eat what I want to eat.” When the public want to enjoy less heathy options, they will, despite the government initiatives in place to educate.
A rising issue is the prevalence of obesity in children, with 23.4% of 10 to 11-year-olds in England grappling with this health issue. During discussions with the public, a recurring concern was the abundance of unhealthy food options within schools. The consensus among respondents was that controlling the availability of junk food in schools and enhancing government involvement in school meals is needed. Despite government investment in school sports, the prevalent issue, as expressed by the public, lies in the accessibility of unhealthy food.
For retailers, steps taken to influence consumer behaviour has been recognised. One respondent highlighted the significance of Tesco strategically placing nuts by the checkout instead of confectionery. Additionally, featuring healthy recipes on products has encouraged consumers to incorporate these items into their efforts to create more nutritious meals.
The affordability of healthier food remains a pervasive concern. Street interviews revealed a unanimous opinion that both the government and retailers should implement measures to reduce the cost of healthier food options, counteracting the allure of cheaper, less nutritious alternatives.“The cheaper stuff is really sugary and unhealthy,” said one member of the public.
The prevalent discounts and deals on less healthy choices contribute to consumer decisions, especially in times of overall rising costs.
Surveying public opinion indicates a shared sentiment that both the government and retailers can influence behaviour and should take more assertive action. Striking the right balance between government intervention and individual choice is the challenge at hand, with education, affordability, and accessibility playing pivotal roles.