SALIENT (food System triALs for Impact on Environment, Nutrition and healTh)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Primary Care Health Sciences


The UK food system is neither sufficiently healthy nor sustainable. Poor diet is the second-leading cause of death and ill health in the UK. The number of food banks in the country is increasing, yet cheaper food is often more energy dense, less nutritious and less sustainable. The gap between diet-related diseases in richer and poorer households is widening. UK food consumption is responsible for about one fifth of greenhouse gas emissions, and industrialised farming practices are reducing biodiversity.

The UK government commissioned a National Food Strategy to plot a course towards healthy, sustainable food provision and consumption. The 2021 report described how the UK is caught in a Junk Food Cycle, which ensures that less healthy, less sustainable foods are cheaper to produce and consume. To break this cycle we need action to push people towards healthier, more sustainable food purchasing behaviour. These actions will need to change the spaces where we make food-purchasing decisions, so that healthy, sustainable foods become the easier option for all.

The SALIENT project will work with the public, policymakers and food system partners to design tools and actions that can increase purchasing of healthy, sustainable foods. We will then test what impact this has in real-life food purchasing settings. This will give us an understanding not only of what works but how and why it works. For the SALIENT project, we will work in three settings that involve the majority of food purchasing decisions in the UK: retail, catering and community support (e.g. food banks and local authority help).

In the co-design phase of SALIENT, we will identify the interventions that we will study during the delivery phase of the project. We will conduct a review of evidence to discover what types of intervention in different settings are likely to be most effective at changing purchasing behaviour. We will use this evidence review to develop a list of possible interventions that have been prioritised on the basis of three criteria: how effective might they be at changing behaviour; how much reach might they have in the population; and what impacts might they have on health, sustainability and inequalities.

We will hold workshops with two public panels to get feedback on our prioritised list of interventions. We will explore which interventions are supported by the public and why, and learn lessons about how to deliver interventions to increase their likely impact. We will also work with a panel of policymakers from relevant government departments to get their insight into our prioritised interventions.

We have an existing network of food system partners who we will work with during the co-design phase. These include both large and small organisations working in the retail, catering and community support sectors. We will add to this network of partners by liaising with the panel of policymakers. We will then hold two workshops with each of our food system partners in turn. The first workshop will be focussed on the design of interventions, and the second will focus on plans for evaluating the interventions in real-life food settings. Our evaluations will use the most rigorous design for each context.

After the workshops, the SALIENT project team will hold a two-day meeting to prepare our study plans for the delivery phase. The objective of this meeting will be to identify a coherent set of interventions for study in the delivery phase of the project, and to plan protocols for these evaluation studies.


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Description This funding award was for the co-design phase of the SALIENT project. The primary aim of this phase of the research project was to establish relationships with partners from the food industry and the community support sector and co-design interventions and trials of interventions delivered in real-life food purchasing (or food consumption) settings. In March 2023 we held a two-day consortium meeting to prioritise the partners, trials and interventions to take forward into the delivery phase of the project. We selected five partners who would conduct six trials of eight interventions. The prioritisation exercise was based on evidence from rapid literature reviews, PPI feedback and input from a policymaking review board. We also developed a process for engagement with further potential partners and a second prioritisation exercise which took place during the delivery phase of the project.
Exploitation Route The outcomes of this study have been built upon in the delivery phase of the SALIENT project. The process of engagement with the public, food industry, policymakers and community support sector in order to prioritise interventions and policies for healthy, sustainable diets will be captured and reported at the end of the delivery phase.
Sectors Agriculture

Food and Drink



Description The findings from the co-design phase of the SALIENT project have had limited impact due to the fact that it was a five month project that was primarily aimed to feed into the longer delivery phase of the project. There have been no academic papers that have emerged from the co-design phase (for example), as these outputs (and other impacts) will emerge when the results from the project emerge - in the delivery phase of the project. However, throughout the project, the directors of the SALIENT consortium (Prof Scarborough and Prof White) met with a policymaking Programme Board with representation from DEFRA, FSA, DHSC, DLULHC, DoE, and the Cabinet Office. We provided direct feedback about engagement with the food industry and community support sector, as well as evidence from the rapid literature reviews and feedback from the public. These findings contributed to the general landscape of policymaking in the consumer-facing food system in the UK.
First Year Of Impact 2023
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Retail
Impact Types Economic

Policy & public services

Description SALIENT (food System triALs for Impact on Environment, Nutrition and healTh)
Amount £5,555,696 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/Y00311X/1 
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2023 
End 03/2025
Title Environmental data linkage with foodDB 
Description foodDB is a software that allows for automated collection and processing of data on all food and drink products available in 8 UK online supermarkets on a regular basis. An extract of ~55k foods from this dataset has been linked with estimates of environmental footprint (greenhouse gas emissions, water use, land use and water pollution) taken from the HESTIA database. The process involves an algorithm that deconstructs ingredients information into estimates of proportion of food by basic agricultural commodity. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This algorithm will become openly available when an accompanying paper is published (currently under peer review). The linkage of data on multi-ingredient processed foods with environmental footprints has allowed for innovative research on population approaches for encouraging healthy, sustainable diets. 
Title PRIMEtime 
Description PRIMEtime is a longitudinal health model that can estimate the health and health economic impact of changes in diet for the UK 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The PRIMEtime model has been used for numerous policy evaluations in the UK, including evaluations of the Soft Drink Industry Levy, the proposed regulation of advertising of unhealthy food to children, and reformulation of sugar in processed foods. 
Description Co-op - retail partner for evaluations 
Organisation The Co-operative Group Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The SALIENT consortium have co-designed an evaluation of price and promotion interventions delivered in Co-op stores.
Collaborator Contribution The Co-op team have helped design the evaluation protocols and will provide us with sales data for the analysis.
Impact Evaluations to be completed in 2024.
Start Year 2022