The importance of product reformulation versus consumer choice in improving diet quality

Document type
Working Paper
Griffith, Rachel; O'Connell, Martin; Smith, Kate
Institute for Fiscal Studies
Date of publication
23 July 2014
IFS working paper; W14/15
Health Services
Social welfare
Material type

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Improving diet quality has been a major target of public health policy. Governments have encouraged consumers to make healthier food choices and firms to reformulate food products. Evaluation of such policies has focused on the impact on consumer behaviour; firm behaviour has been less well studied. This research investigates the recent decline in dietary salt intake in the UK, and shows that it was entirely attributable to product reformulation by firms; a contemporaneous information campaign had little impact and consumer switching between products in fact worked in the opposite direction and led to a slight increase in the salt intensity of groceries purchased. These findings point to the important role that firms can play in achieving public policy goals.

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