A new government initiative called Good Choice is set to recommend ‘healthier’ products to parents. PHE (Public Health England) launched its newest Change4Life programme on the 2nd January, joining with Aldi, Asda, and Nestlé, to encourage parents to swap high-sugar products for lower-sugar substitutes.
According to Change4Life, English children are eating 11.2 kg of sugar (equivalent to 2,800 sugar cubes) a year, over double the recommended guidance. Cereals, yoghurts and soft drinks have added to the childhood obesity crisis, and they may face being banned from in-store and TV promotions.
PHE’s “Good Choice” label is for snacks low in sugar. Nestlé have spent millions in reformulation to make their products healthier and reduce the amount of sugar in them. Tesco run a similar campaign, called Helpful Little Swaps, which is now fronted by Jamie Oliver.
In 2018, a sugar tax was imposed on drinks manufacturers, who have to pay a levy on high-sugar drinks. As a result, many firms have reduced their sugar content before the change. Other countries to introduce a sugar tax include Mexico, Norway, and France.
Despite lingering doubts about artificial sweeteners, both Cancer Research UK and the US National Cancer Institute state that sweeteners don’t cause cancer.
Who are PHE?
PHE are an agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the UK. Their vision is to improve the health of the UK nation, and some of their divisions include: health improvement, health protection, and knowledge and information. Their staff comprises mainly of researchers, scientists, and public health professionals.
Change4Life is one of PHE’s campaigns, which aims to encourage healthy behaviours to improve diet, fitness levels, and alcohol intake. Through an active social marketing presence, they promote their goals to parents to help them make better choices for their children.
The lowdown on sugar
There are many different types of sugar: sucrose (table sugar), fructose (from fruits), lactose (from milk), and glucose (from carbohydrates). Two plants are produced to provide most of the sugar we consume worldwide: sugar cane, which is grown in tropical and subtropical areas, and sugar beet, grown in parts of Europe, the USA, and other temperate climates.
Humans were born to crave sugar. Some health professionals believe sugar is as addictive as drugs like cocaine. Large amounts of sugar elevates the dopamine levels of the brain in a similar way that cocaine does. Across the world, people consume an extra 500 calories of sugar each day, enough to gain one pound a week.
Too much sugar increases the risk of diabetes, obesity, liver damage, heart disease and gum disease, and tooth decay. It can actually change the muscle protein and pumping mechanics of the heart. It also causes glucose levels to rise and fall, leading to headaches, mood swings, tiredness, and cravings.
What our consumers think
We asked our parents whether they would buy a product if it had a Good Choice label, using a split test on each one. We tested half our audience on products without a label, and half with, on cereal, yoghurt, and jelly juice. Here are the results:
The results show that a Good Choice label makes very little difference to purchase intent. While Change4Life is trying to promote healthy eating, parents are still unsure what Good Choice is. The Grocer has recently written an article about parents facing ‘huge confusion’ over feeding their children and what choices to make.
Sugar is here to stay, but there is increasing activism towards healthy eating, especially for children. Government-backed campaigns like Change4Life are challenging manufacturers and retailers, and imposing taxes on sugar will obligate companies to reevaluate what goes in their products. Additionally, healthy eating labels can be useful, but public awareness is key.