Hearing from Scotland: A focus group study

Our 2023 focus group project offers unique insight and perspective on issues relating to obesity and the food environment in Scotland. The project aimed to explore public awareness around drivers of health outcomes in Scotland's food environment along with opinions on public health interventions.

Three focus group sessions and ongoing polling were carried out with members of the Scottish public between November 2022 and March 2023. This page has links to download results briefings for each of the three sessions along with a methodology briefing which outlines the overall process and design of the project.


Key Findings

Session 1. Food Deals and Special Offers (Promotions)

  • Participants recognised an imbalance in the types of products most often on promotion in shops, while also noting a lack of deals available on staple and healthy foods
  • Promotions were seen as a key facilitator of impulse buying in food retail environments
  • Some panel members claimed they are unaffected by promotion deals and only purchase what they intend to

Session 2. Scotland's Out of Home Sector

  • Panel members identified specific barriers to healthy eating when out of home, namely cost, convenience, and unavailability of healthy options
  • Others cited Scotland's wider national food culture as a barrier, claiming other countries are better at offering a variety of healthy options
  • Introducing mandatory calorie labelling on out of home menus was generally supported, however implementing calorie caps on products faced more opposition

Session 3. Industry Influence

  • A word association task showed that panel members often associated large food and drink companies with unhealthy products.
  • There was some evidence of support for curbing food industry power in the name of public health, however many also appreciated industry's need to prioritise profits
  • Many members recognised the harmful effects of unhealthy product marketing on children and supported intervention