UCL Health


How advertising affects the amount of high sugar products, sugar and calories purchased

This project will review how advertising affects purchases of high-sugar products and the total amount of sugar and calories purchased.

22 June 2021


The aim of advertising restrictions is to improve public health by lowering sugar and total calorie consumption. The effect of advertising of food and drinks on total sugar and calorie purchases will depend on how exposure to advertising changes what products are bought.

Advertising of a particular brand could lead to an increase in purchases of that brand by both drawing new customers into the category or by gaining market share from a rival brand. The effect of advertising on total sugar and calories purchased depends on which of these effects dominate.


This project will provide evidence on how television advertising affects what people buy and how extending the current advertising restrictions would affect the total amount of sugar and calories individuals purchase.


We will provide evidence on:

  • Potential impact of changes to advertising restrictions on household’s exposure to advertising of foods and drinks that are high in fat, sugar and salt.
  • The likely effect of extending advertising restrictions on sugar purchases and on total calories purchased under different assumptions about how advertising affects households’ choices of food and drink products.

We will use data from the Kantar Worldpanel and AC Nielsen. The Kantar data contains details of all food and drink products a panel of households purchased and brought into the home. At any one point in time, there are around 30,000 households in the sample; the data contain details of all products that the households purchased including brand, prices and nutrient composition. The data include regular viewing habits of the main shopper – when they watch television and what programmes they regularly watch. The AC Nielsen data contains details of television adverts, including the brand advertised, date and time of airing, channel and programme. We will use this data to construct a measure of advertising exposure for each household’s main shopper and look at how this is related to purchase decisions.


  • February 2019

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The NIHR Policy Research Unit in Healthy Weight is part of the NIHR and hosted by UCL.