Background The majority of the UK population fall short of meeting dietary recommendations. This has led to a recent policy focus on improving population diet through reducing sugar consumption. This study aims to explore whether there have been recent changes in the sugar content of take-home food and beverage purchases. We assess whether these changes differ by socio-economic position (SEP).
Methods We used 2014 to 2017 data from the Kantar Worldpanel UK, a nationally representative panel study of food and beverages bought by British households and brought into the home (n≈32,000 per year). Households used hand-held barcode scanners to report purchases of over 151 million food and beverage products, for which total sugar content was obtained. We used linear mixed models to estimate annual changes in the average sugar content of daily purchases by occupational social grade (high-SEP: A/B, mid-SEP: C1/C2 and low-SEP: D/E) from 24 healthier and less healthy food groups defined using the UK Department of Health nutrient profiling model. Results were adjusted for potential socio-demographic confounders. Final sample included 282,712 quarter-observations from 28,037 households.
Results Preliminary results show that in 2014, predicted average sugar content of daily purchases was 86.2 g per person (95%CI 85.3–87.0 g) in high-SEP, 87.3 g (95%CI 68.8–87.9 g) in mid-SEP, and 89.4 g (95%CI 88.7–90.2 g) in low-SEP households. By 2017, this had decreased by an average of 7.1 g per person (95%CI 6.8–7.4 g) with a greater decrease observed in low-SEP households (8.2 g, 95%CI 7.6–8.7 g) compared to mid-SEP (6.9 g, 95%CI 6.5–7.2 g) and high-SEP (6.5 g, 95%CI 5.9–7.0 g) households. This decrease is largely due to reductions in sugar purchased from less healthy food groups (incl. sugary drinks and table sugar), and was similar in magnitude across SEP households (-6.4 to -5.4 g). However, in 2017, the amount of sugar purchased from less healthy products which usually contain higher levels of added sugar was still 3.5 g (95%CI 2.7–4.3 g) higher in low-SEP compared to high-SEP households.
Conclusion There has been a 7.1 g per person per day reduction of total sugar purchased to take-home between 2014 and 2017. Relatively larger reductions were observed among low-SEP households. This means that by 2017, SEP differences in the total amount of sugar purchased were no longer statistically significant. However, low-SEP households continued to purchase greater amount of sugar from less healthy products in comparison to mid- and high-SEP households. Future work should identify if these changes are triggered by consumer behaviour and/or changes in products.
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