Impact of sugar taxes and front-of-package nutrition labels on purchases of protein, calcium and fibre.Prev Med. 2020 07; 136:106091.PM
Taxes and front-of-package (FOP) labels can be effective interventions for reducing consumption of sugar, saturated fat, and sodium; however, few studies have examined their impact on intake of 'positive' nutrients. The current study explored the impact of sugar taxes and FOP labels on the protein, calcium and fibre density of snack food purchases. A total of 3584 Canadians aged 13 years and older participated in an experimental marketplace using a 3 × 8 between-within group experiment. Participants received $5 and viewed images of 20 snack food products available for purchase. Participants were randomized to one of five FOP label conditions (no label, high in, multiple traffic light, health star rating, or nutrition grade) and completed three within-subject purchasing tasks with different sugar tax conditions (no tax, 20%, tiered). Upon conclusion, participants received the product and any change from one of the purchasing tasks. The results indicate that participants purchased snack foods with higher fibre density when either sugar tax was applied (+0.1 g/100 kcal) compared to no tax, and when they were assigned to see the multiple traffic light (+0.4 g/100 kcal) or health star rating (+0.3 g/100 kcal) FOP labels, compared to no FOP label. There were no significant differences in the protein or calcium density of snack foods purchased across the tax or FOP labelling conditions. Overall, the findings suggest that as consumers respond to tax or labelling policies by moving away from sugars, sodium, and saturated fat, there may be no downside-or even an increase-in 'positive' nutrient density.