HFSS – Food and Drink for Thought

Feb 2022 | Blog

At Umami Search, we keep right on top of trends and developments within the international flavour, fragrance, and functional ingredients markets. Whilst there are always new developments within this sector – think plant-based diets, food sustainability and the like –  there’s no doubt that the hot topic in 2022 is the UK Government introducing legislation to restrict TV and online advertising as well as volume and location promotions on foods with high fat, sugar, or salt (HFSS) content.

This legislation comes into effect in October this year and is sure to have a huge effect on the food and drink industry and indeed, other industries, as well as ensuring that a wide range of companies and organisations across the UK will be seriously contemplating their strategy for the next eight months.

The aim of the HFSS legislation is to help to tackle obesity within the UK, with a particular focus on children.

Statistics show that around two-thirds of adults above what is seen as a healthy weight and 1 in 3 children leave primary school already overweight or living with obesity. Scary data. A more healthy and active lifestyle has been in the headlines for a long time, and the last two years has shown that health and wellbeing really are everything in life. The Covid-19 pandemic has effected everyone in some form, and there has been a renewed focus on being fit and healthy – both physically and mentally – and maintaining or reaching a healthy weight, especially as there is now evidence that people who are overweight or living with obesity are at heightened risk of being seriously ill and dying from COVID-19. Indeed, obesity is also a factor in other chronic illnesses, too.

The Government, in their own words, see that “Regular overconsumption of food and drink high in calories, sugar and fat is one of the key factors leading to weight gain and, over time, obesity”, and see advertising as key in how some people, especially children, change their attitudes towards how and what they eat and drink.

What does the regulation look like? Well, the UK government has introduced legislation to restrict TV and online advertising, as well as volume and location promotions on foods with high fat, sugar, or salt (HFSS) content. So, not only advertising in the usual media channels, but HFSS products will be barred from secondary promotional locations in stores, such as end of aisle displays, store entrances and checkouts.

What products will be affected? Those with a Nutrient Profiling Model score above 4. It includes many products from the following categories: Soft drinks with added sugar; Puddings and dairy desserts; Ice cream; Chocolate confectionery; Sweet biscuits; Morning goods; and Sugar confectionery.

The HFSS regulations will affect many people in a variety of ways. For example…..

There is a very real concern for many across the food and drink industry, including both manufacturers and retailers, how this will affect their business. For example, marketing departments in brands will be working long hours to revise and develop future strategies, whilst many companies will be focussing on producing products that will have a real emphasis on improving health and fitness.

It will also affect shopping habits too, as many products bought come from either the end of an aisle, a display at the front of the store, or a display by the till. This also means that sales of products in these areas will need to be carefully planned by stores. High visibility and high convenience areas in shops really do make a huge difference to food and drink manufacturers, but the October rule will hot some hard.

But many will also see this time as one for opportunities. too. Some retailers will be exempt from the legislation, including specialised and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and/or 185.8 sq meters, and they will view the new regulations as a chance maintain their in-store offering. Whilst some producers will look to pay even more focus on reduced-sugar variant drinks following the Soft Drinks Industry Levy that was introduced in 2016. Those products exempt from regulatory constraints will look to not only consolidate, but broaden, their presence within their markets(s) – whilst HFSS regulations may also see food and drink companies looking to focus on targeted groups such as more health-conscious consumers?

October 2022 is a red flag month for many companies in the food and drink industry, and after a tough two years, many within this sector will be absolutely dreading it. Hopefully, companies and organisations can develop flexible and positive strategies to ensure that not only are the aims of the HFSS regulations met, but they can also remain fit and healthy as a business, too.


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