We have often heard purveyors of “not-so-good-for-you” products talk about consumer choice. Specifically, that consumers have the right to choose what to buy and eat, drink or inhale, and that it is not  the job of the consumer product companies or retailers to regulate this.

What we see happening in the market suggests that this traditional viewpoint is shifting, or at least being amended. As reported in The Grocer last week, Lidl’s recent trial of “nudge tactics” to promote healthier purchasing decisions at point of sale reflects a growing number of initiatives to help consumers choose a healthier pathway.

Philip Morris’ purchase of UK pharma firm Vectura and PepsiCo’s continued efforts to build out its snack portfolio to feature healthier alternatives to traditional products demonstrate that the big players are acutely aware of the need to respond for the long term and take greater responsibility for consumers’ pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.

Our recent research into consumer views on Health and Wellness which we presented at the Consumer Goods Forum has shown that, while they do have a strong understanding of the various components that constitute a holistically healthier approach to life, they are struggling to achieve their goals.

This presents a big opportunity for consumer products companies and retailers to help their customers. While changing consumer behaviours can be considered a disruptive influence, do not see this as a negative development.

At a time where future legislation will likely force change anyway, it is critical that businesses are on the front foot owning the challenge and making far-reaching transformational changes to their organisations.

Brands must develop better products and improved production processes that remove the big consumer barrier of premium pricing - this will prove a game-changer. Meanwhile, retailers can show a strong commitment to enabling societal change around health and wellbeing through careful rationalisation of their product ranges on shelves, which will reflect strongly when tied back to ESG commitments that shareholders and broader stakeholder groups are placing increasing scrutiny upon.

It is hoped that the UK Government’s impending restrictions on advertising of high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) products from the end of 2022 will reduce impulse purchases and help drive down childhood obesity, but there will also be an associated hit in profits for players who continue to overly rely on HFSS.

This makes it all the more important for organisations to reshape their portfolios now for a better shot at long-term business success and to show the wider world that they are listening to consumers and committed to helping them in their quest for a healthier way of life.