Portion Size

Policy Position

FDF recognises that portion size plays a key role in healthy eating and energy balance. We believe that portions should always be meaningful, practical and easily understood by consumers, and our members are committed to exploring new approaches to support this.

In June 2014, FDF members voluntarily agreed to implement a 250 kcal cap on shop bought single-serve chocolate confectionery. This work resulted in billions of single-serve products being reformulated and/or reduced in size to less than 250kcal; the average calorie reduction for each of these products was around 15%.

The PHE sugars reduction programme also recognises reduced portion sizes as an important alternative to reformulation. Where reformulation isn’t possible or acceptable to consumers, companies are looking at how to lower portion sizes as well as encouraging switching to healthier alternatives.

Any work on portion size must also consider that depending on individual energy needs and different consumption occasions, consumers expect, and should continue to be provided with, a choice of portion sizes to suit their requirements.

An increasing number of our members also provide simple front of pack information which clearly indicates both portion size and the amount of energy and key nutrients provided by that portion. This is to help consumers decide what size portion is appropriate for them.

Companies are also coming up with creative ways to reduce consumption, for example, by developing packages that can be resealed or adding portion separators within packages to encourage consumers not to eat all of the product in one go.

FDF supports FoodDrinkEurope’s approach for portion sizes for the purposes of nutrition labelling. Portions are divided into three main categories:

  • Single portion packs;
  • Multi portion packs (recognisable portion units);
  • Multi portion packs (other).


Cochrane review, 2015

A Cochrane review found that people consistently consume more when offered large-sized portions, packages or tableware than when offered smaller-sized versions. Reducing the size, availability and appeal of larger portions of food and drink in shops, restaurants, and in the home, was considered a good way to reduce their risk of overeating.

A second paper published in the BMJ outlined policy options to tackle this, including suggesting methods to reduce the size, availability and appeal of larger portions.

McKinsey Global Institute report, 2014

The report, Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis, found reducing portion sizes would have the largest impact on reducing obesity in the UK compared with the 15 other obesity interventions analysed. Portion control was found to be ten times more effective than a 10% tax on high-sugar/high-fat products.

IGD report, 2012

In August 2012, an IGD working group published the report Portion size of pre-packaged food and drinks and consumption behaviour.

The report detailed the evidence available in relation to consumption behaviour and portion size of pre-packaged foods and drinks, including:

  • Literature map of relevant research.
  • Current gaps in research identified by experts at a stakeholder workshop.
  • Factors affecting the portion size of food and drink from an industry perspective (obtained from interviews with major manufacturers, retailers, and food service companies).
  • Recommendations for areas of future research.

FoodDrinkEurope, 2009

The FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) ad hoc group on portion sizes developed a set of guiding principles for the use of portion sizes in GDA labelling (now recommended intake (RI)), supported by an accompanying note which explains the rationale behind the agreed portion sizes, and sector-specific rationales, to support EU influence on this issue in the context of the Food Information Proposal. (See NUT-051-09 and HWB-007- 10).

Last reviewed: 05 Dec 2018