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Food affordability is a key factor determining access to food, dependent not only on food cost but also on the disposable income that can be spent on food.

Ulster University Business School’s (UUBS) research has been used to inform and support the strategic direction of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), public sector bodies and retailers to promote the affordability and accessibility of food to consumers, thereby tackling the wider societal challenges of reducing food insecurity and an obesogenic environment.

Ulster University Business School’s (UUBS) research on food policy and consumer choice continues to inform the strategic direction of NGOs, public sector bodies and retailers on the affordability and accessibility of food to the wider public.

Our ground-breaking research is the first of its kind in the UK and has been used as the independent evidence base by these stakeholders, resulting in four key impacts.

  1. Informed the strategic direction of NGOs working on the global challenge of food insecurity. The research was used by a coalition of NGOs (e.g., Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), Children in Northern Ireland (CinNI) and Food Foundation) to continuously improve their collective knowledge surrounding food insecurity.
  2. Stimulated policy debate on food insecurity and influenced public health messaging as priority areas requiring government action. UUBS research has ensured that food insecurity has attained policy attention with citations in the House of Lords Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health / Environment report.
  3. Initiated a collaborative stakeholder approach to inform public debate on the healthiness of food retail promotions. The research highlighted the need for greater engagement between public bodies (e.g., Food Standards Agency [FSA]) and grocery retailers to tackle wider societal problems such as food affordability in a more collaborative way, leading to the inception of a bi-annual retailer forum.
  4. Changed retailers’ strategies around the prominence of healthier food products to make the healthier choice the more affordable, accessible and available choice for consumers

Several testimonials from retailers such as Lidl and M&S and trade body representatives illustrated how the research changed strategies used in retail practice linked to the prominent placement of healthier items in stores and stimulated Investment in healthier options through product reformulation.

Others (e.g. Henderson Group and NI Retail Consortium) noted how the research helped to increase the quantity and nutritional quality of foods within their offering and reduced reliance on the use of volume-based promotions.

  • Research Context 

    Food is a basic human right. When this right is breached it can result in food insecurity: a lack of physical and economic access to food.

    The role of the retailer and policy-maker as ‘significant gatekeepers’ of our food supply must be considered to achieve a food system that is equitable for all.

    Maintaining the nutritional quality, value (e.g., volume-and price-based promotions) and choice (e.g., shoppers’ decision-making) of the foods consumers access, at a price they can afford, is a growing concern within the UK and globally.

  • Sources To Corroborate 
    • Citation in House of Lords pp. 43, 84.
    • Director of Future Food Policy, DAERA testimonial.
    • Director, NIRC testimonial.
    • Supply Chain Executive, Lidl testimonial.
    • Commercial Sales Manager for Henderson Group testimonial.
    • Head of Innovation, Marks & Spencer testimonial.