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6. Concluding remarks

In this report, we examine determinants influencing behavioural change towards healthier and more sustainable diets in the Nordic populations, with particular emphasis on policy instruments. A Nordic behaviour change framework has been developed to facilitate an understanding of how and why measures leading to behaviour change are effective. This framework is grounded in the principle that better diets should focus on enhancing the availability, affordability, accessibility, and appeal of healthy dietary options, whilst concurrently reducing these factors for unhealthy diets. It also acknowledges the significance of considering various factors that influence dietary behaviour in guiding consumption patterns toward healthier and more sustainable options.  
The framework describes the factors influencing the individual’s dietary behaviour as food-related, personal-related, and socio-environmental determinants. Important food-related determinants are the sensory characteristics, and the individual’s perception and preference of these. Early food experiences, for instance through kindergartens and schools can help shape these in a healthy and sustainable direction. Demographic characteristics are central for the personal-related determinants influencing food choice. Women are more health-conscious than men, and younger people are more open to adopting new food practices. Similarly, higher education and financial security are enablers for eating healthier. These factors, along with cultural and social norms, are important for designing interventions to facilitate a healthier dietary behaviour. Socio-environmental factors important for food choice are related to availability and accessibility of foods, as well as affordability and cultural associations. These factors vary considerably within and between countries and must be taken into account when designing public policy interventions towards healthier and more sustainable diets.   
Insights into the determinants influencing behaviour can guide and inform the development of interventions by policy instruments. Addressing the capability, opportunity, and motivation of consumers to change towards a healthier diet, thus, must be central to designing interventions. These interventions can be aimed at the individual, group, or population level. Changing behaviour at the individual level provides the best result for the individual, while overarching interventions encompassing the whole population are not so precise but may show general effects. 
A combination of policy instruments addressing different food choice determinants is needed to enable behaviour change among Nordic consumers. Economic factors most significantly influence consumers’ food choices, both in terms of what consumers identify as important for food choice and what is observed as driving food choice. From a marke-based and regulatory perspective, introducing economic incentives as drivers for changing behaviour can be affected through:
  • Taxes: on food products that should be consumed less.
  • Subsidies: on healthy and sustainable food products.
  • Public procurement: Directives for public procurement of healthier and more sustainable food alternatives.
Nudging strategies, making the healthy and sustainable food choice the easier choice, work very well in changing consumers’ behaviour. Nudging is particularly effective in changing and optimising the food environment and can be implemented in various settings, such as:
  • Placement: Making the desired choice the default and easy choice.
  • Portion: Regulating portion contents and sizes to reflect dietary advice.
  • Product characteristics: Ensuring healthy and sustainable food choices are affordable, accessible, available, and appealing.
Information is a necessary prerequisite for ensuring and facilitating informed consumer choices. Increasing consumers’ health and food literacy is essential for the effectiveness of information. However, information alone may not lead to behaviour change and is often more effective when combined with other actions. Information can take many forms, such as:
  • Campaigns: Public information campaigns are effective if conducted regularly, preferably in combination with other measures.
  • Educational programmes: Knowledge is essential for understanding the importance of a healthy and sustainable diet. Schools, personnel in public institutions with food responsibility (e.g., chefs), and health personnel are potential target areas.
  • Labelling: Many consumers use information on labels when making choices. Labelling may be regulated through policies of both national and EU origin
These findings are targeted towards actions that can be implemented by governments and governmental institutions. However, they are also relevant for the food industry, retailers, food service, and other actors in the food chain. Based on the review of behaviour change determinants, the authors suggest four important points to keep in mind when developing policy instruments:
  • Analyse the characteristics of the problem and, in fact, the root cause that needs to be solved. These characteristics determine the type of intervention that could be effective.
  • Understand the target audience and its characteristics (their demographics, cultural background, economic status, beliefs, etc.), and their specific needs, preferences, and challenges related to the given behaviour.
  • Identify and understand the behaviour that needs to be changed, including its underlying causes, contexts, and the specific challenges.
  • Choose a combination of policy incentives with these characteristics in mind to achieve greater efficiency.  
To implement economic instruments such as taxes, subsidies, or fees/charges, an underlying administrative or legal framework is generally essential. Informative instruments are also regularly utilized to keep stakeholders updated of the implemented measures or when they are used in tandem. The most effective combination of these instruments should be strategically chosen to address the specific challenge of achieving a healthy and sustainable diet.