The Soft Drinks Industry Levy has come into force, taxing soft drinks based on the amount of sugar they contain, writes HIM’s Heidi Lanschuetzer. Proponents of the levy and similar taxing schemes argue that making things more expensive does change people’s behaviour. Is it unfair to argue, then, that the reverse – making healthier options more affordable and more accessible – could encourage healthier eating habits among consumers?

We know that price is a decisive feature for most shoppers (HIM, 74%) when buying food. It therefore comes as little surprise that it is commonly cited as a barrier to consuming healthier food among lower-income groups. In fact, a Which? survey found that almost three in 10 shoppers say they struggle to eat healthily as they believe healthier food is generally more expensive.

However, just like in higher-income groups, many consumers in lower-income groups have the desire to improve their diets and lead a healthier lifestyle. HIM research shows that C2DE shoppers (39%) and ABC1 shoppers (41%) are almost equally likely to rate a range of healthy products as very important or important (8, 9 or 10 out of 10).

There is a huge opportunity for retailers to take a proactive approach in making healthy foods more accessible and affordable to a wider population and there are various measures that can be taken other than simply reducing prices. One is to make it easier and more convenient for shoppers to choose a healthier option over a not so healthy one, considering that convenience is a key driver for meal choice for shoppers. In fact, two-thirds of meal-for-tonight shoppers use at least some pre-prepared items when cooking their evening meal (HIM). A wide and clearly labelled choice of better-for-you ready meals and meal solutions should therefore be part of every retailer’s range.

Another way is through promotional mechanics. Given that one in five convenience shoppers purchase something on promotion when in store (HIM), including more healthy options in deals and offers can help encourage cash-strapped shoppers reach for them instead of unhealthy alternatives.