FragmentNation: Health inequalities in the UK
Report presented at the Kantar FragmentNation event in London on 11 July 2018
How to grow in the world of Brexit, divergent marketplace and polarised consumers? The cross-Kantar FragmentNation report is already out, and in Chapter 3 Cathy Capelin (Strategic Insight Director, Kantar Worldpanel) talks about health inequalities and discusses attitudes and behaviour towards it, and the outcomes of them.
The The UK has a problem. In 2015, 58% of women and 68% of men were overweight or obese. Obesity prevalence has increased from 15% in 1993 to 27% in 2015. In 2015/16, one in four children started school overweight and obese; one in three children are obese in Year 6. The annual cost of obesity to the NHS has been estimated at £6.1 billion, and at more than £27 billion to the wider economy.
After decades of increases, life expectancy in the UK is now edging downwards. It is estimated that adults can lose three years of life if moderately obese and 7-10 years if severely obese. Studies say that today’s obese children could live up to 20 years less than their healthy peers.
There is also a clear social divide when it comes to health outcomes. Women in the top 10% wealthiest areas have an average life expectancy of 86 years, and the poorest 10% only 78 years. This gap is widening. In some cities, areas with low life expectancies sit next door to wealthier areas with far better health outcomes.
Health & consumer choices
When it comes to healthy choices, there are some encouraging signs: consumers are telling us that health is increasingly important to them. One in three home consumption choices are driven by health, up from about one in 10 in the 1990s, and this category is now valued at £23 billion. When questioned, most people will say they are interested in their health and diet, with three quarters saying they are trying to lead a healthy lifestyle. But desires relating to health and nutrition don’t always translate into action.
We know there is high awareness of the ‘Five A Day’ campaign, but the average person manages just three portions daily of fruit and vegetables. There are also big variations. Older women on higher incomes living in the south are most likely to reach the target five portions, while men aged 16-24 years only achieve 2.4 per day on average.
Health is a complex subject and means different things to different people. Consumers making choices on the basis of ‘health’ generally claim that the key elements of that choice are ‘health benefits’, getting a portion of fruit and veg, and foods being less ‘processed’. Only about 15% of choices made for health reasons relate to products that are lower in sugar, fat, salt, and calories. So it’s more about what is in products, rather than what is taken out.
Health gaps & government policy
The health gap, then, is also an income gap. Higher income households seek out and are prepared to pay more for healthy options, while lower income households have poorer nutrition and, therefore, worse outcomes.
This is one of the reasons why government policy in this area is intensifying. The Soft Drinks Industry Levy, introduced in April 2018, encouraged the industry to reformulate many products (to below 5gm/100ml) before the Levy actually came into force, and to increase marketing support for lower sugar options. Only one third of current take-home soft drink volume was liable for the Levy in April 2018, down from over 40% in 2014.
Government initiatives are going beyond sugary drinks. In the UK, the aim is to reduce children’s sugar consumption by 20% by 2020, and the calorie reduction programme has just been announced, with calorie reduction targets for a set of categories.
So there are clearly opportunities for manufacturers and retailers in health and nutrition. It is a growing consumer trend, with evidence that consumers will pay more for healthier products. But it is important to understand what benefits your consumers are looking for.
Downloand the full cross-Kantar report by clicking the link on the right and read what experts from all the brands of Kantar have to say about the changing health landscape in the UK.