The majority of packaged food available in New Zealand supermarkets is ultra-processed and so also the unhealthiest according to a paper published in the Public Health Nutrition Journal this month.

The ultra-processed foods are less healthy than less processed foods,” says Dr Wilma Waterlander from the University of Auckland’s School of Population Health  “The lack of significant price difference between ultra- and less processed foods suggests ultra-processed foods might provide time-poor consumers with more value for money.”
“These findings highlight the need to improve the supermarket food supply by reducing numbers of ultra-processed foods and reformulating products to improve their nutritional profile,” she says.

Most of the products were varieties of the same product. For example 311 breakfast cereal products were available, of which 92 (29.6 percent) were produced by two food manufacturers, Ozone Organics and Kellogg’s.

“This poses an unnecessary large exposure of unhealthy food products to New Zealand consumers and this study shows potential to create a healthier supermarket food environment,” says Dr Waterlander.“Strategies could for example, include reducing the number of varieties of unhealthy ultra-processed food and to reformulate products to improve their nutrient profile.”

Ultra-processed foods had the worst nutrient profile, but they were the most available packaged products in a sample of New Zealand supermarkets. In four Auckland supermarkets, (in 2011 and 2013), the products were classified according to their level of industrial processing (eg. minimally, culinary and ultra-processed) and their Nutrient Profiling Score (NPSC).

The study was recently published in the Journal Public Health Nutrition.  The University of Auckland population nutrition researchers examined the availability of packaged food products in New Zealand supermarkets by this level of industrial processing, as well as the Nutrient Profiling Score (NPSC), the price (energy, unit and serving costs) and the brand variety.

Click here to read the paper in full

For more information and interviews please contact:

Suzi Phillips, Media Relations Advisor, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences,
Communications, University of Auckland.
Email [email protected]

Photo with thanks to XNAHandkor, Flickr, reproduced under a CC license.