Market research and consumer protection
A Food Standards Agency case study

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Page 5: Analysis and use of market research

The market research showed that increasing numbers of consumers are aware of the work of the FSA, the importance of a healthy diet and how the traffic light system guides their purchasing. This system makes it easy for consumers to make healthier food choices quickly and easily.

Healthy eating is all about getting the overall balance right. Consumers should look for products with green, amber or red coloured labels on the front of the pack. For example, when deciding between two pizzas, the colours guide the consumer on which has lower fat or salt, helping them decide which one to buy. It also helps the retailers by showing that they are taking a responsible approach in providing nutritional information for consumers.

The front of pack traffic light colouring delivers three main benefits:

  • It makes it easier for consumers to eat more healthily.
  • It encourages consumers to look for and demand healthier food.
  • It provide businesses with an incentive to provide healthier food. There is a pay-off to cutting back on fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar in products as consumers will increasingly prefer these.

The traffic light system has been adopted by a range of major UK retailers.   Waitrose,for example, describes how the scheme works with its products: 'The easy-to-follow front of pack format allows customers to see the nutritional content of products at a glance. A majority of Waitrose customers use the information to help them make healthier choices. Traffic Lights appear on a range of Waitrose products including ready meals, sandwiches, pizzas, vegetable accompaniments and beefburgers.'

The Agency's traffic light approach is fully supported by key medical institutions and well respected organisations, such as British Medical Association, The National Consumer Council, WHICH? Magazine and the British Heart Foundation.

Having the support of these influential groups means that consumers recognise that the research is valid and that they can trust the information. Developing this approach was based on both consumer research and scientific-based secondary research. This is research carried out under scientific conditions such as laboratory testing.

Food Standards Agency | Market research and consumer protection