The UK obesity crisis is costing the NHS £6bn a year, so in July 2020 the government launched its strategy to tackle obesity. Part of this strategy is to stem the rise in children living with obesity, and with 80 % of all food advertising expenditure in children’s airtime on terrestrial channels focused on HFSS foods, the promotion of such products has become a focal point.

Government decided that restrictions should apply to product categories that are significant contributors to children’s sugar and calorie intakes and are heavily promoted, and therefore are the categories of most concern for childhood obesity.

For the food industry, as a whole, the assessment by data and insights firm IRI estimates that 50% of the total HFSS marketing spend (£384m) in the UK will be impacted, which the organisation calculates as being worth £192m to food and drink manufacturers and retailers alike.

What is an HFSS product?

Following consultations, in November 2020 HFSS products were defined and fall in scope if they receive a score of 4 or more for food and one or more for drink, using the 2004 to 2005 Nutrient Profiling Model and they are one of these:

  • Soft drinks with added sugar
  • Crisps and savoury snacks, excl some nuts
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Chocolate confectionary
  • Ice cream
  • Cakes and biscuits
  • Morning goods
  • Puddings, dairy desserts, yoghurts
  • Pizza, chips and potato products
  • Ready meals
  • Breaded and battered products including meat or fish substitutes
  • Main meals, starters, sides and small plates + kids meal bundles out-of-home
  • Out-of-home sandwiches

What is changing for Foodservice?

From October 2022, the Health & Care Bill will mean a number of additional changes will take effect. For example, ‘unhealthy’ promotions in prominent locations in stores (including wholesalers) will be banned. That’s places such as checkouts, entrances and aisle ends.

Fortunately, stores with fewer than 50 employees and/or under 2,000sq ft will be excluded from the requirement, but that leaves a lot of stores above that size with the unenviable task of re-working much of their stock into non-prominent locations.

There will also be a ban on price promotions linked to volume e.g. buy one get one free or ‘3 for 2’ offers on HFSS products. All other types of price promotions, for example, temporary price cuts will still be allowed.

There are some changes coming for foodservice operators from October 2022 too, some of which will take some time and resource to prepare for. For example:

  • Operators will be banned from the advertising of HFSS products on TV and online before 9pm
  • Large out-of-home food businesses, including restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 employees, must add calorie labels to their products e.g. on physical menus, online menus, food delivery platforms and food labels
  • Restaurants will be banned from providing free refills of sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks (unless smaller than 2,000 square feet)

Some good news is that there are several exemptions, allowing for business as usual (almost) for many operators and even some brands (when marketing B2B):

  • Businesses smaller than 250 people will not be impacted
  • Ads in digital audio will be allowed (e.g. podcasts and music streaming)
  • Organic or non-paid for media e.g. your own website and social channels will be unaffected
  • B2B adverts will be unaffected

Since the strategy was launched, there has been some criticism of these proposals suggesting they lack evidence to prove they will drive any significant decrease in calorie consumption. Nevertheless, it seems the wheels are in motion, so it feels appropriate for the foodservice industry to prepare now for how these new restrictions will impact their business.
You can find more information from the Government here.