There is a continuous focus on health within the UK, and a conception that consumers are becoming more health aware, allowing them to make healthier food and drink choices.

However, research by global nutrition experts revealed that the UK actually purchases more ultra-processed food than any other in Europe.

“Ultra-processed” means food made with industrial ingredients and additives created by food technologists. In a special February issue of the journal Public Health Nutrition published by The Nutrition Society, a  study was taken among 19 European countries, and topping consumption was the UK, with ultra-processed food totaling of 51% of the diet, followed by Germany and Ireland at 46%. The lowest percentage was Portugal with 10%.

In fact, 42% of British consumers are not concerned about eating too much processed food compared to countries such as Greece, where only 20% claimed the same, according to GlobalData’s global consumer survey from 2016 Q4. Greece scored third lowest consumption of ultra-processed food in Europe in February issue of the journal Public Health Nutrition.

Are Britons healthier or not healthier?

There is no doubt that consumers are more aware of their general health but the issue here is their ‘attitude behavior gap’. Put more simply, people don’t eat as healthily as they would like to, or as healthily as they tell others they do, 100% of the time.

Certainly Britons are busy, and a busy lifestyle can mean unhealthy eating. GlobalData’s global consumer survey from 2015 Q1 found that British consumers today lead busy lifestyles, with 50% of them often feeling like they don’t have enough time in the day to cram in all the things they would like to do. This will have a significant affect whether consumers eat healthily or not, as they will be likely to opt for easy, affordable, and quick options, which are often processed and unhealthier.

So what does this mean?

There are two key points here. First is that regardless of their understanding of healthy eating, British consumers will prioritise having more time to do what they want. Second is that this does not mean they would not choose a healthier product if it was affordable, easy to understand and can prove the quality has not been compromised. Either way, unhealthy food will continue to stay in the consumers’ consumption routine.