Stakeholder views and experiences of Caloriewise

Funded by: Food Standards Agency (Northern Ireland)


August 2012 to June 2013

PSI researchers:

Kathryn Ray

Background, summary and aims

Background, Scope and Aims

Obesity is a major public health issue - across the UK and in many other Western countries the rate of obesity among the general population has increased rapidly. Evidence suggests that consumers often underestimate the amount of calories in meals purchased (and consumed) outside the home, raising concerns that these meals are a major contributing factor to the rise in obesity and diet-related illnesses.  To encourage healthy eating, the FSA in NI has introduced a number of initiatives to inform and educate the public about healthy eating.  One such initiative is Caloriewise, a voluntary pilot scheme which encourages catering businesses to display the amount of calories in food items on their menus, so that customers can identify healthier choices and so improve their diet.  The study assesses the adoption and implementation of the Caloriewise scheme among catering businesses and gauges understanding and use of the scheme by Northern Ireland consumers.

Project Design

The research design utilises qualitative methods to gauge the experiences and perspectives of a range of stakeholders, including business owners, outlet managers and consumers.  The research will have five sequential phases, with the findings from each stage informing the next:

1. Scoping phase, comprising desk-based research and interviews with food catering business corporate managers, to explore implementation issues
2. Research with food catering outlets, including:

  • Interviews with outlet managers to explore the operation of the scheme;
  • Point of choice research with consumers to examine their awareness of, interest in and use of the scheme when making meal purchases;

3. Follow-up interviews with corporate managers to explore future plans for calorie labelling;
4. Consumer focus groups to explore the role of calorie information in meal purchasing decisions in greater depth;
5. Analysis and synthesis.

Importance of Research

The Caloriewise scheme is a high profile initiative; part of a suite of behaviour change initiatives that focus on informing the public about healthy food so as to empower them to make informed choices in relation to the food they purchase and consume.  The research will provide a robust evidence base about the practical implications for businesses of operating the scheme and an insight into consumer responses.  This will provide a basis for developing and improving the scheme for a future rollout, and will inform the FSA in NI about other initiatives necessary to aid consumer understanding of calorie information.