HFSS brands in the UK that are unable to reformulate to achieve a lower Nutrient Profile Score or simply choose not to, will need to face into some of the strictest regulations around promotions and advertising on the planet. Marketing in this restricted environment is going to be extremely challenging and the world is watching, so it is important for HFSS brands to understand what they can and cannot do, and how to embrace the spirit of the law.

Here we look at the three biggest challenges for HFSS food and drink brands.

Challenge 1: Reformulate and innovate or stick it out?

Leading HFSS brands have been busily reformulating and innovating to bring compliant products to the market and avoid the restrictions altogether. A quick look at The Grocer, the food and drink industry bible, on any given week, will show you just how much healthier reformulation and innovation there has been and continues to be in advance of the new restrictions coming into force. Giant HFSS brands like Walkers with its 45% less salt range, KP Snacks with reformulations and innovations across its range of snacks; and Kellogg’s with new healthy cereal innovation have been busily levelling up health in their portfolios. They clearly have an advantage over smaller players due to their big R&D teams and big budgets, but consumers will choose, and they rarely accept a compromise on taste, particularly when their favourite brands are reformulated.

HFSS brands therefore need to consider their options either 1) reformulate, 2) stay as they are and work within the restrictions, and/or 3) innovate and expand their portfolio to encompass healthier HFSS compliant alternatives which would not be subject to the new restrictions.

With rumours circulating that some leading supermarkets are shunning non-compliant HFSS NPD and with range reviews with a health lens squeezing and threatening the very existence of some smaller HFSS brands on shelves, it is going to be tough, particularly for challenger brands. But there are still plenty of opportunities for HFSS brands to go after and lots of ways to maintain shelf presence and create shopper awareness and excitement. Check out the rest of this blog series for help and advice.

Challenge 2: Creating physical availability and stand out in store when HFSS promotions go dark.

Changes to the type of promotions and where they are located in store will bring about big changes to the level and visibility that ‘unhealthy’ products will have in front of shoppers both in physical stores and when shopping online. It is hoped this will discourage impulse purchasing of HFSS products. Without volume promotions such as 2 for 1 deals, restrictions around locations outside of the aisle including store entrances and gondola ends and equivalent locations online, it means brands will need to work harder in the aisles (i.e. disruptive packaging and POS and in aisle feature displays) and as well as trying to create mental availability pre-shop. But with a tightening of where and how brands are able to advertise and market themselves externally it has become a real head scratcher.

Challenge 3: Creating awareness and mental availability when advertising restrictions come into force.

There will be significant changes to the way HFSS products can be advertised and so it requires a radical rethink of marketing strategies and much careful consideration around those permissible channels and tactics to employ.

Pre 9pm advertising on TV and video is now out of bounds as are paid ads online. The use of influencer marketing (unless running on brand’s owned channel) is also a big no-no.
Brands will still be able to use their owned media i.e., website, blog and social media and so now is the time before restrictions come into effect to start building and nurturing those channels and brand fans.

Print, outdoor, cinema, radio and direct marketing present a wealth of carefully targeted opportunities for HFSS brands, but they of course must comply with the current CAP Code rules. Brand advertising, think Cadbury Gorilla, if no identifiable HFSS products are present, is also allowed.

In our next blog we will look at some ideas and solutions available to HFSS food and drink brands to overcome these three key challenges. At jellybean we do not endorse or support finding or exploiting loopholes, the regulations are there for a reason, as part of the government’s Childhood Obesity strategy, and so for those HFSS brands targeted at responsible adults, enjoyed as treats and / or eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet, then the guidelines are there to be followed and help us all to navigate through the restrictions and enable mental and physical availability to be achieved albeit much different from what is currently allowed.