Front-of-pack labelling: Scotland and Northern Ireland research and Northern Ireland campaign

The aim of this research is to help determine the level of consumer awareness, knowledge, understanding and use of front-of-pack (FoP) labelling and update the evidence base securing Northern Ireland (NI) and Scotland-specific data. It will inform a targeted communications campaign in Northern Ireland.
Study duration: July 2013 to March 2017
Project code: FS411018
Contractor: IPSOS


FSA in NI and Scotland has statutory remit for dietary health and labelling.

Monitoring suggests consumers in NI and Scotland make poor dietary choices. Recent information ( see 'Published papers' below) suggests the annual cost of ill health due to diet to UK NHS is £5.8 billion. This translates to estimated cost in NI of £168 million, while in Scotland the estimated total cost of obesity to society in 2007/08 was in excess of £457 million.

The Scottish Government’s Preventing Obesity Route Map outlines support for consumers to make less energy-dense food choices, including implementation of FoP recommendations. The role food manufacturers play in informing consumers so that they can make more healthy, informed food choices has become particularly acute with ‘A Fitter Future for All’, a cross-Departmental Obesity prevention strategy for Northern Ireland. The ultimate long-term outcome is ‘Healthier food options are available and accessible to the whole population’. This requires measurement of performance indicators. Currently data is insufficient to identify change/progress made as a result of this Strategy.

The FSA is working with Public Health England, industry and NGOs to deliver a consistent front-of-pack labelling scheme. In July 2013 the preferred format, hybrid labelling of reference intakes and colour coding of the key public heath nutrients: fat, saturated fats, sugars and salt (and energy) on a per portion/per 100g basis, was launched.

Research Approach

FSA in NI will work with other UK officials to develop a consistent communication framework for industry and consumers to support the scheme. We will work with partners to determine how to evaluate the scheme to inform the UK position when the Commission reviews European Union legislation on FoP labelling in 2017.

The research aspect of this work for FSA in NI and Scotland will determine and justify an awareness raising campaign, and thus enable adequate promotion of the FoP label to consumers in Northern Ireland and Scotland, accurately target evidence-based policies on nutrition as well as being in a position to harvest baseline data for the subsequent evaluation of the associated campaign as the research has demonstrated a lack of awareness amongst consumers in NI and Scotland.

The data obtained from this research will inform the direction of a communications campaign to raise/target awareness of the labelling scheme to ensure its penetration and uptake among consumers.  Increasing consumer demand for the scheme should increase further the voluntary display of nutritional information front of pack. A communications campaign will involve subsequent waves of communications activity to build awareness, understanding and use incrementally.

This information may also be used by colleagues in Department of Health or the Welsh Assembly Government when  determining their way forward.

Published Papers

  1. The economic burden of ill health due to diet, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol and obesity in the UK: an update to 2006–07 NHS costs.  Scarborough et al, 2011, J Public Health (2011) doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdr033.  First published online: May 11, 2011.)