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Consumer health: branding over substance

Consumer health: branding over substance

62% of British consumers care more about how healthy their food or drinks are, compared to 5 years ago


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  • Consumers identified brand as the main source of information when deciding what is healthy, piling responsibility on consumer goods companies to avoid consumer confusion
  • 62% of British consumers care more about how healthy their food or drinks are, compared to 5 years ago
  • Female consumers care slightly more than men; younger generations care more than older generations, and consumers in the North and Midlands care less than the national average

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of British consumers say they care more about how ‘healthy’ their food and drinks are, compared to 5 years ago, a KPMG survey reveals. But putting perceptions of ‘health’ under the microscope, consumers also say that a product’s brand is the main source they turn to in order to determine how healthy products are.

When asked about which sources inform consumer perceptions of healthy food and drink generally, 40% of respondents said they based it on the product’s brand. Only 22% said they based it on government advice, or their friends and family. Furthermore, despite much focus being on technology and social media, only 13% said they used an app-based nutritionist, and only 4% pointed to a social media influencer. 

Jason Parker, UK head of health at KPMG, commented: “Brands clearly have great influence over what consumers determine as healthy, and customers need to be clued up on the health claims around certain ingredients.

“However, it’s great news that our population – and Generation Z in particular – is more engaged in taking responsibility for their own health. If consumers make informed decisions about healthy eating, we will slowly begin to see less demand on our health services for the vast range of issues that go hand-in-hand with an unhealthy diet.”

When looking at a product for nutritional insight, half of respondents said they use the list of ingredients, or the traffic light labelling system (detailing sugar, fat and salt content) to inform their choices. Forty percent said they use the calorie content, however, as many as 37% based their decisions on price, and 28% based it on the general look of the product.

In the survey of over 2,000 consumers, it is evident that the health agenda continues to grow amongst British consumers. Sixty four percent of female consumers said they care more about the health impact of their diet than five years ago, slightly more than their male counterparts, 60% of whom said the same. Meanwhile, younger generations care more than older generations, 76% of 18-24 year-olds said they care more, compared to only 59% of those over 55. Regionally, consumers in the North and Midlands appear to care slightly less than the national average (59% and 60% versus a national average of 62%).

Linda Ellett, UK head of consumer markets at KPMG, added: “The increased consumer demand for healthier products clearly presents consumer businesses with an avenue for growth. For many businesses, that has entailed product diversification or refined recipes, especially in light of the sugar levy’s introduction. Indeed, we recently noted healthier consumer goods as a key trend shaping both inorganic and organic growth for these businesses*. 

“Having said that, consumer businesses can’t afford to lose sight of how much trust consumers place in brands or a product’s health claims. Brands simply cannot afford to get this wrong.  It is vital that consumers are fully informed but equally, not perplexed. A clear distinction needs to be made between products containing a healthy ingredient versus the product that is healthy in its entirety.”


Notes to editors:

Simon Wilson, KPMG Corporate Communications

T: 020 7 311 6651

M:  077853 73397



KPMG Press Office

Tel: +44 (0) 207 694 8773


*References and further reading:

  • For KPMG’s 2019 Organic Growth Barometer, please click: here
  •  For KPMG’s 2019 Global M&A Consumer & Retail trends report – The race for game-changing transformation and strategic growth – please click: here
  •  For KPMG International’s Consumer Currents (Issue 25) – Issues driving consumer organizations – including a closer look at ‘sin taxes’ – please click: here


KPMG UK commissioned YouGov to survey over 2,000 in June 2019. British consumers were asked about various issues relating to their health considerations when buying consumer goods. The survey was carried out online on the 11th and 12th June 2019. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults aged 18+.

Findings in detail:

In general, would you say you care more or less about the health impact of the food and drink you buy, or is it about the same? (2,045 respondents)



Net: care more


Net: care less


About the same


Don’t know



Age breakdown of those who care more, compared to 5 years ago:

Age band

Net: care more (%)

18 – 24


25 – 34


35 – 44


45 – 54





Regional breakdown of those who care more, compared to 5 years ago:


Net: care more (%)
















Thinking about when you generally shop for food and drink. Which, if any, of the following do you look at on the food/drink items to determine how healthy food and drinks are (select all that apply)? (2,045 respondents)

Item used on food/drink


The list of ingredients


The calorie content


The traffic light label that details sugar, salt and fat content


The general look of the packaging


The price


The general look of the food/drink item itself




Don’t know


Not applicable



Which, if any of the following sources would you use when trying to determine how healthy food and drinks are (select all that apply)? (2,045 respondents)

Source used to determine if food/drink product is healthy




Government advice


The food/drink brand itself


App-based nutritionist


An influencer’s recommendation


The media




Don’t know


Not applicable



About KPMG in the UK

KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 22 offices across the UK with approximately 16,300 partners and staff.  The UK firm recorded a revenue of £2.338 billion in the year ended 30 September 2018. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services. It operates in 154 countries and has 200,000 professionals working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity.  Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

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