Although a massive 93% of shoppers say they are aware of the “sugar tax” on soft drinks announced in the recent Budget, the biggest change in shopper behaviour – ahead of any single change in our consumption habits – has been an increase in the number of us reading food and drink labels.

The latest Bridgethorne Shopper Index, from category and shopper management specialists Bridgethorne, shows that whilst 48% of us are reading labels more often than before, just 44% have begun buying low or no sugar fizzy drinks; 34% have given up or reduced their intake of foods like cakes or biscuits, and 30% have reduced their consumption of fruit juices. Only 22% say they have begun restricting foods eaten by others in their household and just 19% are buying low or no-sugar confectionary.

There is evidence in the Index, however, to suggest that although Government messages are cutting through, the degree of impact maybe somewhat muted. More thank half of all respondents said they either rarely (32%) or never (26%) take any notice of Government food advice, compared to 39% who say they sometimes do and only 2.4% shoppers who say they always follow Government advice on what food and drink to buy.

An analysis of responses by life stages, however, shows those with families are the most likely to adhere to Government advice; 53% of these shoppers follow it, in some form. Empty Nesters and adult only households are the least responsive with less than 30% adhering to Government advice in one form or another.

Sugar continues to be the topic that engages shoppers most. Given the recent announcement on the ‘Sugar Tax’ and the consequent media focus on it, it is perhaps unsurprising that nearly two thirds of shoppers say that they would take notice of the recommendation, not least perhaps as it may have a direct, albeit limited impact on household budgets.

Concern about sugar has risen among all shoppers since the Bridgethorne Shopper Index last asked about it in August 2015, with 52% expressing concern now compared with 49% then. Although sugar is the food related ingredient of most concern across all of the life stages, there have also been small rises in those expressing anxiety about salt content and additives. Different food ingredients also come under focus depending on our time of life. For example, the retired are extremely concerned about salt content, which may be linked to cardiac health issues.

“Sugar has been in the media for some time, but has had overwhelming exposure in the recent coverage of the Budget,” comments John Nevens, Joint Managing Director, Bridgethorne.

These findings suggest that while shoppers have an appetite for information, they intend to use it to make their own decisions about what they should or should not buy and ultimately consume.”

The Bridgethorne Shopper Index is a quarterly survey of shopper behaviour, satisfaction, loyalty and future propensity to purchase as well as offering space on topical questions placed by FMCG suppliers. The company has developed a series of approaches that help supplier organisations address all aspects of Shopper Management enriched by their new Shopper Research service. Areas they address range from shopper understanding, through strategy and planning right up to activation and evaluation.