Junk food regulation coming soon in the UK
What does it mean for food and drink retailers in the UK and the rest of the world?
The UK government is putting new regulations around HFSS (high in saturated fat, salt and sugar) products into place starting on 1 October 2022 that will affect many of the country’s largest food and drink retailers. The changes will bring the biggest restrictions on promotion and marketing of junk food, an issue that is widely seen as the main contributor to overweight and obesity health challenges. The government estimates that it is also the source of about £27 billions ($31 billion) of direct and indirect cost per year.
The HFSS junk food regulations are like those already imposed on tobacco, alcohol and energy drink sales that many retailers have addressed in the past. The rationale? In consultation with communities, the goal is to address the growing problem of bulk and impulse purchasing of junk food by the public that doesn’t result in stockpiling of HFSS products, but rather greater consumption.
Globally, other smaller locales such as Berkeley, California passed a local ordinance to stop the sale of junk food at checkouts back in 2020. In the rest of Europe, HFSS limits are only voluntary, but policy initiatives are likely to follow if the industry does not make changes. European parliament’s Farm to Fork policy is a step in this direction.
Here are the HFSS regulation FAQs that retailers are asking as we approach the starting point in the UK:
HFSS product placement in high traffic areas both online and in-store will be prohibited. High traffic areas include checkouts, store entrances and end of aisles in physical stores, as well as homepages, basket checkout pages and other high traffic pages of a retailer’s online website.
Retail locations with over 50+ staff members and are 185.8+ square metres (2,000+ square feet) or larger will be covered.
Yes, there are a few exemptions. Small businesses that have under 50 staff are not covered. Neither are small format locations that are under 185.8 square metres (2,000 square feet) even if they are a company with 50+ staff. Specialty stores that only sell HFSS products, like confectionary stores for example, would also not be covered.
Any franchisee with 50+ staff members would be covered as long as the location(s) are 185.8+ square metres (2,000+ square feet). Right now, there is still a grey area for franchises with locations larger than above mentioned space.
Yes, a part of the regulation has been pushed back a year into 2023. This includes the promotional pricing activities of multi-buy. Retailers will not be allowed to push multi-buy promotions for HFSS products such as “Buy 1 get one free” in both their online and offline stores by October 2023.
Aside from a name and shame, brand reputation issue as a retailer, the penalties for non-compliance are meant to be encouraging rather than penalising, according to the government. Non-compliant retailers will be given notice by local authorities that include what they need to improve or stop in the location(s) at question. With repeated offences after receiving notices, the retailer will have a fixed monetary fine of £2,500. When not paid within 28 days, it will go up to £5,000.
Food and drink in the following categories are considered HFSS (High fat, sugar and salt) products if the 2004/5 Nutrient Profiling Model (NPM) calculates the products to be equal to or over 4 for Food products and equal to or over 1 for drink products.
- Soft drinks
- Chocolate or sugar confectionery
- Ice cream
- Morning good like pastries
- Sweet biscuits
- Breakfast cereals
- Milk-based or juice-based drinks with added sugar
- Ready-made meals
- Meal centres (including breaded and battered products)
- Savoury snacks
- Chips and similar potato products
The biggest concerns for retailers around the legislation is ensuring their stores are HFSS compliant by the 1 October 2022 deadline. Internal communications and training should be given to all their retail associates and store managers to ensure clear understanding of what needs to be adhered to regarding compliance. It would be embarrassing to have HFSS products moved one week and employees without proper training move HFSS products to the same high traffic areas the week or month after.
HFSS compliance and Axonify
There are many challenges ahead for food and drink retailers as HFSS gets implemented, but Axonify is your ideal compliance partner to help you as regulations evolve over time. Some well-known grocery retailers are taking upwards of 18 months trying to comply with the new regulations around HFSS.
The full Axonify platform reduces the time large food and drink retailers take to adhere to new regulations. How? Internal communications to inform staff of what’s coming and get feedback so they feel empowered as part of the process, a training platform that ensures everyone know what needs to be done and guided task execution to ensure every store becomes and stays compliant. Axonify allows retailers to become more agile in the fast-changing regulatory environment in the UK and around the world. The platform is available in 50+ languages, so you can ensure all staff have equitable access to compliance no matter what languages they speak or where they’re located.