Home » News

Priority Places for Food – examples of high-priority neighbourhoods across England, Wales, and Scotland

Priority Places for Food – examples of high-priority neighbourhoods across England, Wales, and Scotland

The Priority Places for Food Index (PPFI), developed as a collaboration between the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) and Which?, was launched in 2022 to identify neighbourhoods that are most vulnerable to increases in the cost of living and which are likely to be food insecure.  

In January 2024 we launched Version 2 of the index, providing the most up-to-date picture of food insecurity risk at neighbourhood level.  

In this post, Dr Fran Pontin and Dr Rachel Oldroyd highlight diverse examples of high-priority neighbourhoods across England, Wales, and Scotland, illustrating how various factors and barriers can converge to create a ‘perfect storm,’ resulting in households experiencing hunger or being unable to access a balanced, healthy diet.

For instance, there may be areas where families with young children are facing financial struggles and dealing with escalating food costs, leading them to turn to food banks to ensure their children are warm and well-fed.

Or, in rural areas where people have limited access to cars and poor local public transport, the ability to choose from a variety of food options and find the best deals is constrained. This limitation forces residents to rely on often more expensive convenience stores with a restricted selection of healthy and budget-friendly items. 

Alum Rock – Birmingham

Situated to the east of the city centre, Alum Rock is one of the most deprived wards in Birmingham, where 100% of the neighbourhoods in this area are classified as high priority places for food. This area has a young demographic, with 21% of the population aged 15 or under.

Therefore, presence of families and a related demand for family food support is particularly pronounced. Alum Rock is one of Birmingham’s most economically disadvantaged areas, with employment rates significantly below the city average.

Despite the presence of several supermarkets and convenience stores in the area, residents are likely to encounter substantial socio-economic barriers when attempting to access nutritious and healthy food. Moreover, this area reports high levels of fuel poverty, forcing many individuals to make difficult choices between heating and eating. 

Hainault – Redbridge

Hainault is a good example of a ward where no one neighbourhood is the absolute highest priority within a specific PPFI domain when compared with the rest of England.

Here, neighbourhoods rank around the top 30-40% most in need across all the Priority Places domains. When considered in combination, however, these relatively high socio-economic risk factors paired with relatively poor access to purchase food contribute to high risk in food insecurity.

Compared to the borough population at the previous census in 2011, Redbridge has seen an increase in the proportion of families with children, more adults working shorter hours, increased population density and an increase in the number of people renting in the 2021 census.

This means by updating the data included in the Priority Places for Food Index, as new data comes available, we have captured these local area changes to give the most informed picture of food insecurity risk. 

Norris Green – Liverpool

In the ward of Norris Green, Liverpool, all neighbourhoods bar one are in the top 20% of priority places across England and in need of support with food.

The ward of Norris Green demonstrates where socio-economic barriers paired with heating cost demands and reliance on additional food support have resulted in increased food insecurity risk.

We also see a discrepancy between fairly good proximity to supermarkets (i.e. there are lots of supermarkets nearby) but access to supermarket food via public transport or online delivery service is significantly poorer, suggesting that improving access to what is already there could be of benefit to this community.  

Llanasa and Trelawnyd – North Wales 

In the ward of Llanasa and Trelawnyd in North Wales we see a good example of the importance of considering the domains in different population contexts.

The ward overall is not particularly high priority compared to Wales as a whole (in the top 30-60%). However, access to both supermarket and non-supermarket food is poor due to limited outlets in the local area. This ward has a large population of older adults so this poor access to food choice risks becoming a barrier to healthy and affordable food for these groups.

Conversely, we see less reliance on family food support as there are fewer school aged children (compared to Wales on average).   

Canal Ward – Glasgow

In the Canal Ward of Glasgow, we see that some domains, such as the need for family food support are high across the ward whilst others such as socio-demographic barriers and access to supermarkets vary by neighbourhood. For example, towards the south of the Canal ward, towards Glasgow city centre, sociodemographic barriers are lower and access to supermarkets is better, making this neighbourhood a lower priority place compared to the rest of the ward, illustrating how the factors combine to make an area high priority.

Newsome – Kirklees

Newsome, located to the South of Huddersfield town centre in Kirklees, is a good example of a traditional ‘food desert’ as 81% of the neighbourhoods in this ward have limited supermarket access.

Compared to other areas, the average distance to a supermarket and the average time taken to travel to a supermarket from this area via public transport is high. 40% of households in the area do not have access to a car or van so might find themselves struggling due to the lack of accessible supermarkets.

Compared to other priority areas, Newsome has lower need for family food support, and socio-demographic barriers do not contribute as much to the area’s level of priority for support.  

Little Horton – Bradford

Little Horton, to the South of Bradford City centre, is the second most deprived ward in the city. 

Therefore, unsurprisingly, we note substantial socioeconomic barriers which limit access to healthy and nutritious food.

Little Horton has the highest percentage of children aged under 16 compared to other areas in Bradford and the need for family food support is high.

We see elevated levels of fuel poverty compared to other areas, and unemployment currently lies at 30%, well above the national average of 4.3%.

Little Horton is also an area of priority for ecommerce, so residents may struggle to buy groceries online, which is problematic for people who are unable to travel to the supermarket.  

Eilean a’cheo – Scottish Highlands 

Eilean a’cheo is a ward located in the Highland of Scotland and includes the islands of Skye and Raasay.

All 13 of the neighbourhoods within this ward fall within the highest priority places for supermarket proximity due to their remote location.

Residents of Eilean a’cheo are likely to face barriers accessing food due to the distance to the nearest supermarket.

All neighbourhoods within this area are also high priority for fuel poverty, with residents paying on average 76% above the national average to heat their homes.

Eilean a’cheo is also a priority area for ecommerce. Therefore, there may be difficulty obtaining online grocery deliveries compared to other areas. 

How are you using the Priority Places for Food Index?

We’d love to hear how you are using the Priority Places for Food Index to better understand food insecurity risk in your area.

We always welcome suggestions from those using the tool to make it as useful as possible – please do get in touch with the CDRC Leeds team if you have any questions or recommendations.

Priority Places for Food Index – Version 2 Released

Priority Places for Food Index

The Priority Places for Food Index (PPFI), developed as a collaboration between the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) and Which?, was launched in 2022 to identify neighbourhoods that are most vulnerable to increases in the cost of living and which are likely to be food insecure.  

In January 2024 we launched an updated version of the index, providing the most up-to-date picture of food insecurity risk at neighbourhood level.   

What is the Priority Places for Food Index? 

In 2022, 14% of households in the UK struggled to access a reliable source of healthy, nutritious and affordable food. However, statistics about food insecurity outcomes, such as those provided by the Trussell Trust, are not captured at individual or neighbourhood level, making it difficult to target specific areas.  

Using openly-available data, the Priority Places for Food Index allows food insecurity risk to be mapped at a local level, focusing on areas roughly 650 households in size, across all devolved nations.  

As the index uses seven different data domains, it can be used to identify areas that are a priority for different types of support and where that support needs to be targeted.

Across all nations of the UK, the PPFI is being used by policymakers, academics, charities, retailers, nutritionists, consumer groups, and educators in their efforts to reduce food insecurity.  Which? used the Priority Places for Food Index as part of their Affordable Food for All campaign, which calls on supermarkets to commit to clear pricing and better access to budget ranges that enable healthy choices and more offers for those who need them most.

What’s changed in this version of the Priority Places for Food Index?

Data have been updated across several of the seven PPFI domains. This includes new area socio-demographics, foodbank, and food retailer location data.  

Data relating to Free School Meal eligibility has also been updated to reflect the changing policy landscape and to address regional inconsistencies in policies. We now include all children in households of relatively low income, reflecting recommendations that the free school meal program be extended to all children in these households. Just this month, The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, extended the funding for universal free school meals as the cost-of-living crisis continues to hit families.  

Finally, in England and Wales, the Index has been updated to reflect the latest 2021 census neighbourhood boundaries (Lower layer Super Output Areas).  For the full details of the data update see the PPFI version two data profile.  

The Seven domains of the Priority Places for Food Index. 1. Proximity to supermarket retail facilities, 2. Accessibility to supermarket retail facilities, 3. Proximity to non-supermarket food provision, 4. Access to online deliveries, 5. Fuel poverty, 6. Socio-demographic barriers, 7. Need for family food support

Areas may look different to version one as a result of the new data incorporated or changes to neighbourhood boundaries. Because of these data changes we recommend that you don’t make comparisons between the versions.  If you would like to continue to use version one, you can find it here

You might also notice a few changes to some of the features within the dashboard. Following a year of engagement with charities, local and national government and commercial organisations using the tool we have made a few upgrades to the dashboard to improve the user experience. These tweaks include making it more accessible to those who use assistive technology and adding more detailed ‘how to’ guides on the web page. We have also improved the map navigability, adding a search bar that enables you to ‘zoom to’ your chosen local authority or region of the UK. 

Insights from the Priority Places for Food Index

Read Dr Fran Pontin and Dr Rachel Oldroyd’s article in which they highlight diverse examples of high-priority neighbourhoods across England, Wales, and Scotland, illustrating how various factors and barriers can converge to create a ‘perfect storm,’ resulting in households experiencing hunger or being unable to access a balanced, healthy diet.

Where can I find more information?

Full details of the data update can be found in the PPFI version two data profile.

Read a summary of frequently asked questions.

Should you have any questions or wish to provide feedback on the latest version of the Priority Places for Food Index please contact the CDRC Leeds team.

Podcast: Achieving impact as an Early Career Researcher

Group of three data scientists chatting informally - one is using a laptop and one has back to camera

Podcast: Achieving impact as an Early Career Researcher

Last month our Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics Team were awarded a Celebrating Impact Prize from the Economic and Social Research Council for the work they are doing to improve access to healthy and sustainable diets for customers of major food retailers.

Two members of that team, Dr Vicki Jenneson ANutr and Dr Francesca Pontin, join Ged Hall on this week’s Research Culture Uncovered podcast to discuss their careers to date and how, as part of the CDT Data Analytics & Society and the Consumer Data Research Centre , they have been engaging with partners to deliver impact.

🎧 A great listen for other Early Career Researchers looking to build impact into their academic identities: https://lnkd.in/g3us4AKr

Making Merry in Famous British Pubs

Making Merry in Famous British Pubs

T’is the Season to be Jolly

With reports that the few weeks before Christmas can, in normal times, equate to a quarter of pubs’ yearly profits, this is an important time of the year for pubs in Great Britain.

However, the impact of the recent pandemic and the cost of living crisis has proved to be a challenge for some pubs, causing many to close.

Research by CDRC’s Dr Stephen Clark explores longer term trends in pub numbers and how they vary by types of neighbourhood.  

So with Christmas coming and revellers heading to their local pub for festive fun, we asked Stephen how some of these locals could be affected by recent trends in the number of British pubs.

The Bull – Ambridge

We start with perhaps what is our oldest pub – built in the 16th century – “The Bull” which can be found in the sleepy rural hamlet of Ambridge, in the English Midlands.

Two seats beside a fire in a traditional English pub - The Bull, Ambridge

In locations like this, many pubs have unfortunately closed their doors, with nearly one in four of these ‘Prospering countryside life’ neighbourhoods witnessing a pub closure since mid-2014.

Despite this trend, not all is gloomy for such pubs. Some have garnered recognition as ‘assets of community value’ and have been successfully rescued, now operated by the local community.

The Woolpack – Emmerdale

“The Woolpack” is located in the village of Emmerdale on the fringes of the Leeds and Bradford conurbation in Yorkshire.

This pub is in a ‘Rural traits’ neighbourhood and whilst these types of neighbourhood have experienced some reductions in the number of pubs, it is to a lesser extent than some other rural neighbourhoods.

Here nearly one in five of these neighbourhoods show a reduction, by one pub on average. A potential solution to safeguarding some of these pubs involves a shift towards a greater emphasis on food, transforming into a gastro-pub. Through their convenient location, they can attract customers from nearby towns and cities to visit, thereby contributing to their sustainability.

The Vic – Walford

We now transition to a London pub known as “The Queen Victoria,” affectionately referred to locally as “The Old Vic.” Situated in the London borough of Walford in East London, this pub, constructed in 1860, has witnessed significant changes in its neighbourhood over the past 150 years.

Blackboard advertises Pie and Mash and Fish and Chips, in background festive lights can be seen through the pub window.

Presently, the area falls into the category of an ‘Urban cultural mix’ neighbourhood, characterised by a diverse range of generations, ethnicities, and employment opportunities within the community.

To some extent, this area is poised for gentrification, and during the eight-year period, the number of pubs has remained relatively stable, showing a slight, albeit insignificant, reduction.

The Rovers Return – Weatherfield

Remaining in an urban setting, we now journey north to “The Rovers Return,” a traditional working-class pub nestled among cobbled streets in the inner-city suburb of Weatherfield, Manchester.

Coronation street with festive lights, in the foreground the Rovers Return Inn can be seen with festive decorations

Image courtesy of Ian Middleton Duff – Flikr

Contrary to expectations, pubs situated in such ‘Hampered neighbourhoods’ actually experienced an increase in their numbers, with nearly one in eight such neighbourhoods displaying a rise in the number of pubs.

This growth occurred despite challenges posed by competition from more affordable supermarket and corner shop drinks, as well as the surge in in-home entertainment options.

It is heartening to consider that people in these communities still recognise the pub as a cherished third space, providing a venue to meet with friends, neighbours, and work colleagues.

The Dog in the Pond – Hollyoaks

The final pub is the most contemporary in our list, the “Dog in the Pond” located in the affluent city of Chester, just south of Liverpool.

During the 1990’s and early 2000’s this pub catered to an adolescent and young adult cliental, but more recently this has broadened out to serve diverse age groups. However, it is still largely a ‘Cosmopolitan student neighbourhood’ and these types of neighbourhood have seen the greatest increase in the number of pubs, with one in four showing an increase in the number of pubs.

With young people now having access to many ways to socialise via social media and such like, it is reassuring that many still value the face to face interactions and relaxed atmosphere that pubs and bars can offer.

Final thoughts

What we observe here is a varied scenario for the British pub. Numerous pubs in rural settings have encountered substantial challenges to remain open, yet some have been rescued through local community initiatives.

On the other hand, pubs and bars in urban settings, especially in town and city centres, have experienced more favourable outcomes, capitalising on gentrification and improved transportation options. With increasing numbers, these urban locales can offer a diverse range of leisure and entertainment options to visitors.

Find out more

Find out more about the recent trends in the number of British pubs and how these vary by neighbourhood type in Stephen’s paper in The Geographical Journal.

Dr Stephen Clark is a Research Fellow at the Consumer Data Research Centre at the University of Leeds. In addition to Stephen’s work on trends in pub numbers he has also recently been exploring neighbourhood characteristics associated with retail bank branch closures.

New Data: Which? Priority Places for Insulation Index

Person wearing gloves installing insulation - in reference to CDRC making Priority Places for Insulation Index data available for researchers

New Data: Which? Priority Places for Insulation Index

In November 2023 Which? released the Priority Places for Insulation Index which shows places around the UK which are most in need of insulation.

In partnership with Which? the Priority Places for Insulation Index data is now available to researchers via CDRC Data.

The index is novel because it incorporates both aspects of housing stock and household circumstances which exacerbate the need for insulation.

It is a composite index which considers the condition of properties in each area, as well as features of the local population including age, level of fuel poverty, and health conditions.

The index ranks geographical areas within each nation of the UK across eight different indicators relating to insulation needs and is produced by weighting and combining the eight indicators to construct an overall ranking of Priority Places for Insulation within each nation. It has been produced at three levels: local authorities, parliamentary constituencies and small local areas.

It was constructed using open data and web-scraped data from the publicly accessible Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) register for Northern Ireland as well as relevant sites where installers can be found or listed.

More Information on the Priority Places for Insulation Index

Download the data via CDRC Data

View the Priority Places for Insulation Index

Read the Which? Policy Research Report: Priority Places for Insulation Index: Mapping the UK’s Home Insulation Needs

CDRC Evidence – Fairness in the UK’s food supply chain

CDRC in Parliament – Fairness in the UK’s food supply chain

Earlier this month Dr Francesca Pontin, CDRC Research Data Scientist at the University of Leeds, gave evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on ‘Fairness in the food supply’.   

Fran provided insight from CDRC-Leeds’ Priority Places for Food Index and the teams wider research. We asked her to share a little bit more about the index and some of the key insights from the committee:  


About the Priority Places for Food Index 

The Priority Places for Food Index (PPFI), developed last year in collaboration with Which?, identifies areas within the UK at risk of food insecurity.    

Policymakers can use the interactive map to identify neighbourhoods most in need of support and to understand the main reasons that they need this support. 


Screenshot from Priority Places for Food Index - highlights most at risk of food insecurity

Transport is part of the problem, and the solution 

Household access to a car can be a serious limitation for consumers when it comes to accessing affordable food – not only do they have difficulties reaching food retailers in general, but they are also unable to conveniently shop around for deals, choose cheaper food retailers or ‘bulk buy’ in a way that could minimise cost.  

PPFI includes data on household car access and access and availability to public transport. The length of a journey via public transport is part of how we generate our ‘Accessibility to supermarket retail facilities’ data domain. Household access to a car is measured in the ‘Socio-economic barriers’ data domain. 

Issues around transportation also look different whether you are in an urban or rural area. Increasing connectivity opens up consumer choice by making a variety of food retailers more accessible to larger portions of society. 


Different solutions are needed for urban and rural areas 

In rural locations, access to supermarkets often drives the risk of food insecurity. In these cases, meeting both transport need and availability (e.g. increasing local connectivity) would lower the risk of food insecurity.   

Longer term, increasing the number of available supermarkets in rural areas would potentially minimise the distance needed to travel to reach those sources of food.  

There is also an issue with rural food retailers potentially operating at a higher price point, especially where rural communities might rely significantly on convenience stores for the majority of their shopping. Mystery shopper research from Which? found supermarket-brand convenience stores do not stock budget-range groceries, though Morrisons has now committed to doing so in their Morrisons Daily convenience stores.  

In urban areas, the primary drivers of food insecurity risk are typically socio-economic barriers. Shoppers may be able to access supermarkets more easily, but other markers of deprivation captured in the index, including income deprivation, fuel poverty and reliance on food ‘safety-nets’, limit their ability to purchase food. 

Pushing health problems down the line 

Not having access to adequate amounts of food or the right sources of food is not just a cost-of-living problem, it has far-reaching implications for the future burden placed on our health service.

Fran also highlighted that childhood attainment is one of the outcomes most likely to be impacted by food insecurity, as a lack of adequate nourishment for children makes it harder for them to concentrate in school. 


A need for legislation 

In October 2022 the Government introduced legislation which limits the sale of foods high in fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS) in key retail promotion locations within retail stores, over a certain size, selling food.  

In this session the panel discussed how it is possible for legislation to drive change for businesses. Fran highlighted HFSS as an example of how sector-wide change can happen when it becomes a business priority, putting less burden on health and sustainability teams to make a business case for healthier and more sustainable product lines.  

There is a clear need to respond to consumer concerns around food health, sustainability and pricing – and this is part of what PPFI and our ongoing work with Which? allows us to do – however Government legislation can provide an effective top-down approach to ensure businesses act.  

The team are involved with the DIO-Food project, an academic evaluation of the impact of the HFSS legislation: whether it worked to reduce sales of HFSS items and whether it impacted communities equally. It will consider both the experience of consumers and retailers. This will allow us to continue making valuable suggestions to Government about what really works in retail settings. 


Healthy start top-up vouchers and price incentives 

The committee had a number of questions around price incentives on healthy products. 

In response to these questions Fran highlighted research from the University of Leeds, in collaboration with IGD and Sainsbury’s in which analysis on a 2021 Healthy Start top-up scheme revealed that baskets redeeming a £2 top-up coupon purchased 13 more portions of fruit and vegetables compared to baskets where a voucher was not redeemed.  

Fran also referenced a trial, undertaken in collaboration with IGD and Sainsbury’s which reduced the price of selected fruit and vegetables in stores across the country for four weeks and led to the number of promoted fruit and vegetables sold increasing by 78% during the intervention period.  


Food sector data transparency 

Academic research can only happen when data are made available for rigorous analysis.  

Unfortunately, competition law and commercial sensitivity often limits what data retailers can share externally, including with researchers.  Whilst the CDRC has worked hard to establish relationships with retailers to enable data sharing, there are still many challenges when it comes to sharing within the sector.  

Whilst much of our work is with large retailers, we also know that smaller retailers such as independents and convenience stores can offer alternative insights. However, working with these retailers presents its own challenges, as they often do not have the internal resource to enable research development and relationships or to share data.  

Ensuring food sector data transparency, for example through the Food Data Transparency Partnership would not only allow greater access to food data for analysis, but also create a non-competitive space where retailers could share learnings of what works to help customers. Legislation of this kind would level the playing field, and we would welcome convenience store retailers as part of that conversation. 


Large overlap between food sustainability and cost-of-living initiatives 

A recent trip to Good Food Oxfordshire, who are using the PPFI as a core metric in the Oxfordshire Food Strategy, highlighted how sustainability initiatives originally set up to minimise food waste have now had to pivot to also solving food insecurity during the cost-of-living crisis.  

This has become a particular issue when large redistribution initiatives mean that surplus food is not being kept local but in fact being moved across the UK.  Particularly relevant at the moment in light of the King’s The Coronation Food Project announcement, a project which aims to redistribute food surplus to the neediest areas.  

It is becoming clear that sustainability initiatives alone are not sufficient to address food poverty, and that there needs to be greater attention paid to the barriers to accessing food, rather than the availability of food, either in retailers or in surplus. 

Watch the ‘Fairness in the food supply chain’ evidence session.

CDRC Researchers awarded ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize

Blurred image of a supermarket aisle - products not distinguishable but indicating source of consumer data

CDRC Researchers awarded ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize

A team of researchers from the Consumer Data Research Centre have been awarded an ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize in recognition of the work they are doing to improve access to healthy and sustainable diets for customers of major food retailers. 

The Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics Team, which is led by Professor Michelle Morris, collaborated with IGD and major retailers, including Asda and Sainsbury’s, to analyse data from shopping transactions and loyalty cards, and test interventions aimed at promoting healthy and sustainable diets. 

Insights from the team, which included Dr Stephen Clark, Dr Emily Ennis, Dr Vicki Jenneston and Dr Francesca Pontin, have benefited individual food retailers by delivering evidence-based research about what works and, crucially, what doesn’t when it comes to encouraging consumer healthy behaviours.

“We are delighted that our research has delivered real world impact and to be recognised as winners by ESRC in this way is brilliant.  Our work in the Business and Enterprise category has delivered impact within business but importantly to communities that are most in need of support to access healthy, sustainable, and affordable food.  This work been a result of effort from a diverse team, at the University of Leeds and our partners.  We hope that it inspires others to play their part in research that makes a difference.”

Prof Michelle Morris, School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds

About the project

Prof Michelle Morris explains: “Traditionally, people’s dietary habits have been recorded through surveys reporting what they have eaten, but this provided limited data to inform national policies. Retailers were reluctant to share more valuable data about shopping patterns due to commercial sensitivities. This project enabled us to build industry relationships and gain access to data sources, such as loyalty cards.”

The research started in 2017 with a single supermarket partner. In 2020, the team was invited to collaborate with IGD, whose Industry Nutrition Strategy group (INSG) members represent more than 11,500 UK food stores, and account for over 90% of take-home food sales. 

The partnership enabled the researchers to run a series of in-store and online behaviour change trials with four UK food retailers.  The team worked with supermarket partners to change the in-store environment, experimenting with signposting, product placement and incentivisation. The team then analysed transaction records to understand which changes positively impacted purchasing patterns.

Hannah Skeggs, Senior Health & Sustainable Diets Manager, IGD said of the partnership: “It has been a privilege for IGD to partner with the Consumer Research Data Centre to evaluate real-life trials in supermarkets across the UK. Winning this award is a fantastic credit to the teams’ hard work, innovative data products and exceptional collaboration. We look forward to continuing our partnership together with the ambition of making healthy and sustainable diets, easy and accessible for everyone.”

Informing retail strategies

The team’s insights have changed how and what products are available from retailers, as well as enabling retailers to make informed cost-benefit analyses and economic decisions around how best to support their customers.

A trial changing the placement of meat alternatives at Asda, for example, resulted in a decrease in sales. The company has committed to expanding their vegan range by approximately 50% and are exploring which interventions will influence shoppers to make more meat-free choices.

Beth Fowler, Nutrition & Health Strategy Manager at Asda, commented: “Our collaboration with Professor Morris and the Consumer Data Research Centre team has enabled Asda to test and understand the impact of merchandising on consumer food choice, in a real-world supermarket setting. Their expert insights were used to scope, shape, implement and evaluate the trial.

“Using the data and results from the trials we ran with Professor Morris’ team, we have been able to influence decision-making within the business to ensure our Plant Based range of alternatives to meat are accessible for customers.

Shifting shopping patterns

The introduction of interventions that shift shopping patterns towards healthier diets means consumers have also benefited from the team’s research. The work led to sector wide transformations, providing insights to retailers on the effectiveness of behaviour-change trials that encourage healthy and sustainable diets, particularly for communities most in need.

For example, the team analysed how effective the Sainsbury’s Healthy Start voucher top-up scheme had been in supporting pregnant women and children with access to healthy nutrition. Analysis showed that shoppers increased the number of fruit and vegetables in their baskets by an average of 13 more portions and bought more products in line with the Eatwell Guide. 

Nilani Sritharan, Group Head of Healthy & Sustainable Diets for Sainsbury’s explained: ‘Sainsbury’s experience of working with Michelle and her team has been excellent. They have pushed boundaries in how the food industry collaborates with academia and influenced business decisions within Sainsbury’s and choices available to our customers.

Using the data and results from the trials we ran with Michelle’s team, we have been able to influence commercial decisions within the business related to expanding the top-up scheme for Healthy Start Vouchers and the pricing of fruit and vegetables through Nectar Prices and Aldi Price Match.”

Future work

Through co-production of research, we have demonstrated to the retail sector the depth of academic insight available and shown academic researchers the value of industry expertise in delivering true and lasting real-world change.

Our research team’s reputation for robust data governance has made retailers feel confident in both sharing our insights and best practice across the sector and advocating for other retailers to be part of our collaboration.

This collaboration is ongoing, and we are excited about the possibility of future trials with current and new partners in the food system. In addition to trials the Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics team will be using retail transaction data to evaluate the impact of nationals policies, such as the government legislation to restrict promotion of foods and non-alcoholic beverages high in saturated fat, salt and sugar.

How do we cut the cost of healthy food?

Which communities are hardest hit by the rising cost of food and how can we help?

Professor Michelle Morris joined colleagues from the Global Food and Environment Institute on the latest How To Fix… podcast to discuss how rising food prices are affecting different communities.

Michelle discussed the role that access plays in food poverty and how policy makers can use the CDRC’s Priority Places for Food Index (developed in collaboration with Which?) to identify neighbourhoods that are most vulnerable to increases in the cost of living and which have a lack of accessibility to cheap, healthy, and sustainable sources of food.

Dr Effie Papargyropoulou and Prof Sara Gonzalez discussed how traditional markets and community-led food initiatives can help remove some of the barriers to food access and are supporting some of those communities struggling with food insecurity.

Listen to the podcast.

CDRC research team shortlisted for ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize

crowded London street

CDRC research team shortlisted for ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize

A team of researchers from the Consumer Data Research Centre have been announced as finalists in this year’s ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize, in recognition of the work they are doing to improve access to healthy and sustainable diets for customers of major food retailers. 

The annual prize, now in its 11th year, recognises researchers who achieve outstanding economic or societal impact from their research.

The Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics Team, which is led by Professor Michelle Morris and includes Dr Emily Ennis, Dr Francesca Pontin, Dr Victoria Jenneson and Dr Stephen Clark, are one of two finalists in the Outstanding Business and Enterprise Impact category.

Professor Michelle Morris, Professor of Data Science for Food at the University of Leeds commented:

“I am very proud to lead such a brilliant team and for us to be included amongst such inspiring finalists for these Celebrating Impact Prizes. 

Food is at the heart of some of the world’s greatest challenges and as a team we are driven to deliver impactful research that makes healthy and more sustainable diets available to all.

We couldn’t do this work without industry partners passionate about driving change, the support of the ESRC and University more widely – thanks to you all.”

Dr Emily Ennis, CDRC’s Research and Impact Manager welcomed news of the team’s recognition:

“CDRC was developed to use consumer data to provide unique insight into a diverse range of societal and economic challenges. This research is exactly this.

It’s exciting to see the team using these real-world data to deliver real-world impact: changing how businesses are run and the products they provide, in order to ensure UK consumers have access to affordable, healthy, and sustainable food.

Michelle and the team continue to grow their network and research power, and we’re so excited to be a part of where it goes next.”

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on 15 November 2023, as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science.

Case Study: Leeds Best City Planning: Harnessing 2021 Census

Case Study: Leeds Best City Planning: Harnessing 2021 Census

The census provides an extensive snapshot of society, and it is utilised by the government and local authorities to inform policy and resource allocation. However, it is difficult to utilise this resource without prior experience in data manipulation and analysis.

Project overview
This project aimed to provide access to Leeds census data for a range of end-users in the form of a data dashboard. The Intelligence & Policy Team at Leeds City Council (LCC) receives a substantial number of census-related data requests from councillors, different departments, and members of the public. The process of downloading, manipulating, and analysing census data can be time-consuming and tedious. This dashboard aimed to minimise the time spent on this process, providing insights at the click of a button.

Data and methods
Census data that is open-access and meets statistical disclosure control (SDC) limits, can be used in different combinations. For this project, census data were downloaded from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) or Nomis (National Online Manpower Information System) websites. Data were downloaded for both the 2011 and 2021 Censuses, and at the Ward and Lower Layer Super Output Area (LSOA) scales. The spatial boundary data (ESRI Shapefiles) were provided by LCC but can also be accessed online. This was converted into TopoJSON files, and their coordinate reference systems (CRS) changed in a free online resource, ‘Mapshaper’. These spatial transformations were necessary because the software chosen to host the dashboard, Microsoft PowerBI, requires files to be in this format and with a specific CRS (EPSG: 4326).

Data wrangling took place in the Power Query Editor (PQE) in PowerBI. The census data were downloaded in CSV format and read into PowerBI. In the PQE, steps such as removing unnecessary columns, editing column headers, and merging data, could take place, allowing the appropriate format required for the PowerBI dashboard. In the Data Model, connections were formed between variables (columns) that allowed the visuals to interact with each other in the dashboard.

The theme/style of the dashboard were kept consistent across the pages. The colour scheme, map shape, slider and some buttons appear in the same position on every page. The visuals ranged between Clustered and Stacked Bar Charts, Shape Maps, Doughnut Charts and Tornado Charts (Downloaded Visual). Some of the visuals interact with each other on the page, and by selecting an area or multiple areas on the map (Ward or LSOA) the local statistics are displayed on the page. Some visuals (which are specified) can be clicked to return a choropleth map. DAX equations have been implemented on some graphics, demonstrating the percentage (%) change between 2011 and 2021 across categories of a variable and spatial scale. Other graphics have tooltips (pop ups) which provide further information such as totals and proportions (%).

In the dashboard users can also click between 2011 and 2021, Ward and LSOA data. There are links to download the data and access the Leeds Observatory on all pages. Tutorial, contents, information, and quick links pages are also available in the dashboard allowing users to access further information and help if they require.

The dashboard will initially be published on the Leeds Observatory and Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) websites, allowing for public access. The dashboard will also be published by Leeds City Council at a later date.

Key findings
This census data dashboard tool will allow a range of end users to access census data at the click of a button, which will save significant resources.

Accessibility was a significant consideration in the design of the dashboard, and we believe we have achieved this. Clear guides on how to navigate through the dashboard and help pages will aid users’ ability to use the tool (See Figure 1 for an example).

This project has demonstrated that using Microsoft PowerBI software is an effective way to produce a general-purpose dashboard for Leeds census data. Through user-testing it has been found that the dashboard is easy to use and understand for a range of end-users. Leeds City Council have begun to use this tool and it has proved effective for what they wanted to achieve. There are many potential uses of the dashboard, so it is promising that initial findings suggest it is working successfully.

We have been successful in implementing all the topics that were set out at the start of the project, at two different spatial scales, and over two iterations of the census (See Figure 2 for an example). We also have gone beyond the initial scope of the project, by implementing DAX measures (allowing comparisons between the 2011 and 2021 censuses). However, implementing complex cross-tabulations (combining multiple variables) were beyond the scope of this project and future research into the ability to implement these in PowerBI could be useful.

Value of the research
This tool will benefit a range of end-users who utilise census data for Leeds. It will allow the Intelligence & Policy Team to respond to census related requests efficiently. Moreover, it is hoped that as awareness of the tool grows in the council, many queries will be answered without the requirement to contact the team.

It can be used by the public to discover statistics for their area, and spark curiosity in census data. The dashboard would be suitable for use within schools, higher education, and industry. It is important that dashboard tools exist, so access is not limited to those with backgrounds in data, so that people can ask questions about their local area.

This tool will provide a snapshot of society to Councillors and Leeds City Council officials, thereby supporting local policy making and neighbourhood resource allocation.

Quote from project partner

“The Census is a vital tool in helping us to better understand our city and the people who live and work here. The depth of insight at the touch of a button this project has enabled us to access will change the game in supporting more people to access meaningful data in a user-friendly way. In addition, the results from the project will assist us through informing strategic conversations with councillors, helping to guide our work on equality diversity and inclusion, and generating further lines of enquiry more quickly than we’ve been able to previously.”
Mike Eakins – Head of Policy, Leeds City Council

• This census dashboard is user-friendly and accessible.
• It will benefit a range of end-users, from councillors to the public.
• Microsoft PowerBI is an effective method of presenting Leeds census data.

Research themes

  • Health
  • Societies
  • Environment

Programme themes

  • Statistical Data Science
  • Data Science Infrastructures

Owen Hibbert – Data Scientist, Leeds Institute for Data Analytics, University of Leeds
Rachel Oldroyd – Lecturer in Geographic Data Science, University of Leeds
Myles Gould – Associate Professor, School of Geography, University of Leeds
Nik Lomax – Professor of Population Geography, University of Leeds
Richard Haslett – Intelligence & Policy Officer, Leeds City Council
Mike Eakins – Head of Policy, Leeds City Council
Claire Keightley – Intelligence & Policy Manager, Leeds City Council

Leeds City Council

This project was funded by the Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC), an ESRC Data Investment. Funding references ES/L011840/1; ES/L011891/1. The Census Dashboard was developed by the CDRC at the University of Leeds in collaboration with Leeds City Council.


Screenshot of the Tutorial page in the census dashboard. This page has text and arrows explaining how to use each section of the dashboard.

Figure 1: Screenshot of the Tutorial page in the census dashboard. This page has text and arrows explaining how to use each section of the dashboard.

Screenshot of the Background: Ethnicity, Religion, & Language page in the census dashboard. This page has a map of Leeds (which returns a choropleth of ethnicity). It has three bar charts demonstrating Ethnicity, Religion and Language. It is interactive, where a user can click on the map or select a Ward or LSOA which returns the statistics for that area in 2011 or 2021. Tooltips (Pop-ups) appear on every visual providing more information.

Figure 2: Screenshot of the Background: Ethnicity, Religion, & Language page in the census dashboard. This page has a map of Leeds (which returns a choropleth of ethnicity). It has three bar charts demonstrating Ethnicity, Religion and Language. It is interactive, where a user can click on the map or select a Ward or LSOA which returns the statistics for that area in 2011 or 2021. Tooltips (Pop-ups) appear on every visual providing more information.