HSR label impact on food formulation and purchasing

This project leverages the adoption of Health Star Rating (HSR) food labels as a 'natural experiment', to estimate the impacts on household food formulation, and purchasing behaviour.

Project Details

In 2014 Australia and New Zealand adopted a new voluntary, interpretive front-of-pack nutrition labelling system, the Health Star Rating (HSR), ranging from half a star (least healthy) to five stars (most healthy).

The adoption of the HSR has created a natural experiment that could have important effects on population diets. This project is world-leading because we have comprehensive data to estimate the impact on:

  • reformulation of all packaged foods (not just a select sample) using annually collected data on food composition in both Australia and New Zealand
  • household food purchasing behavior using New Zealand HomeScan panel data from Nielsen NZ. The project will used econometric methods – specifically fixed effects. Having completed the analyses of HSR, we will turn our attention to other arising natural experiments in food policy.

This project is part of the DIET Programme hosted by the University of Auckland.


  • Prof Tony Blakely, Research Professor, Epidemiology
  • Dr Laxman Bablani, Economics
  • Dr Kevin Staub, Econometrics
  • Assoc Prof Christopher Skeels, Econometrics


  • Cliona Ni Mhurchu, Professor, Public health nutrition, University of Auckland
  • Bruce Neal, Professor, Global health, George Institute, UNSW
  • Cristina Cleghorn, Dr, public health nutrition, University of Otago