Research type 
UK wide
Year of report 

Summary of findings

  • If messaging from C4L is placed on pack, this is always perceived as endorsement of that product to some degree
  • The audience splits between those who feel ‘on pack’ messaging is an appropriate method for C4L to reach its audience with C4L aims and messages and those who do not. The difference is rooted in the endorsement aspect
  • Message type had some impact on strength of endorsement, highlighting that some types are safer territory than others generally
  • The health status of the product, however, emerged as the key factor in determining acceptability of messages
  • Taking into account the considerations in the above findings, the safest on-pack messaging territory appears to be on healthy (and some ‘healthier’) products, via a promotion or tip
  • ‘Mixed’ or polarising messaging territory arises where there is disagreement about the use of products perceived by all to be less healthy as vehicles for messaging, or disagreement about the extent to which a product is healthy or not, i.e. a neutral or mixed product
  • Unsafe messaging territory was identified when the message and its tone was seen as conflicting with the campaign aims and therefore the brand
  • POS material also emerges as a safer channel for messaging on products and in store
  • The current C4L sub-brands help minimise endorsement perceptions and have the added value of increasing engagement with messages for the target clusters
  • Overall, use of on pack messaging appears to have potential to facilitate learning and behaviour change within the target, although it does carry risks

Research objectives


The overall objective of the research was to identify which messages and executions ‘work’ with what products and categories of food and soft drinks. For the purposes of the research, ‘work’ was defined as: 

  • Being seen by consumers as credible, appropriate and compatible 
  • Not being interpreted by consumers as an endorsement of the product
  • Either providing helpful information or, ideally, encouraging behaviour

Within this overarching objective, the  research aimed to clarify any rules or
boundaries around on-pack advertising  and understand the exact nature of
any risks and how these could be minimised, in order to discover ‘safe’
territory for the C4L brand and sub-brands. 

Specific research objectives for the research included the need to understand:  

  • How different combinations of message type, message ‘wrapper’ (e.g.
    sub-brand), vehicle, food category and product impact upon consumer
    perceptions of the C4L brand
  • Whether there are any rules or parameters which determine whether particular food categories, products, message type, message ‘wrappers’ and vehicles and their various combinations are more or less acceptable territory for C4L messaging
  • The potential for new sub-brands ‘Switch4Life’, ‘Swap4Life’ and ‘Tips4Life’



Currently a quarter of adults and 1 in 10 children are obese, with a further 20 to 25 per cent of children and 42 per cent of adults being overweight.  If levels continue to increase, by 2050 only 10 to 15 per cent of the population will be a healthy weight.  The Change4Life (C4L) campaign launched in January 2009 in response to this issue.

Partnerships across a broad range of stakeholder groups (Government, NGO’s, local community and voluntary groups, the NHS and commercial partners) are critical to enabling the campaign to achieve its ambition, creating a social movement for change.  Since the launch a significant amount of partner activity has taken place, commercial partners included.

Activity with commercial partners has to date been at a brand rather than product level and has tended to be focused away from the retail environment, taking an informational rather than promotional focus. Partner activity has largely consisted of co-branded sponsorship activity (for example McCain Athletics4Life or the Flora marathon), in addition to the delivery of campaign messages through magazine editorials or websites.         

There have also been some examples of C4L being used at point-of-sale (POS), for example in Tesco, the Co-Op and some convenience stores, using the Department of Health (DH) advertising assets or 5-a-day or physical activity behaviour change messages.

There is an increasing number of partners who wish to integrate C4L messaging and sub-brands within their promotional activities.  Such messaging is an opportunity to drive and support behaviour change, but with this opportunity comes some potential risks.  The DH therefore commissioned research was to establish the parameters whereby such messaging can operate without risk to the campaign brand and with maximum benefit for consumers.


Quick summary


Qualitative research to clarify any rules or boundaries around on-pack advertising and understand the exact nature of any risks and how these could be minimised, in order to discover 'safe' territory for the Change4Life brand and sub-brands.

Audience Summary





Not specified



Mums - All had 1 child aged 2 to 11 at home

General public groups:

  • Young Independents - Aged 18 to 30
  • Young Family Dads - Had at least 1 child aged 5 to 11 living at home
  • Older Family - Had children aged between 12 and 18 living at home and none under the age of 12
  • Older Independents - Aged 45 to 60

Social Class


Not specified



  • 12 group discussions with Mums, 6 of which were friendship groups. All audience clusters were represented, however the sample was weighted towards core target clusters
  • 9 group discussions with the General Public (split into the four sub-segments of Young Independents, Young Family Dads, Older Family and Older Independents)

Groups consisted of 4 to 5 respondents and lasted between 2 and 2.5 hours.

Data collection methodology

Focus groups

Sample size


105 participants (across 21 discussion groups)

Fieldwork dates


May 2009

Agree to publish



Research agency


COI Number