UK Government could delay implementation of HFSS legislation

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
HFSS Big Ben and Houses of Parliament On River Thames, Dusk

The implementation of the legislation that limits the promotion and advertising of products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS), could be pushed from October 2022 to 1 January 2023, or partially dropped altogether, according to recent reports.

The potential delay is an attempt by British PM Boris Johnson to get Tory MPs back on his side following the anger in reaction to the lockdown parties held at Downing Street during the pandemic, according to The Financial Times. The decision is said to part of a plan called “Operation Red Meat”.

The proposed legislation would restrict the in-store promotions of HFSS foods such as ‘3 for 2’ or ‘buy 1 get 1 free’ deals. The new law would also ban showing adverts of foods high in fat, salt and sugar on TV before the 9pm watershed and online.

Lead Dietician, Heather Osborn from Gloji Digital Weight Management said: “Obesity affects a high number of adults and children in the UK, and that there is evidence to support the fact that promotions and marketing of these HFSS foods by retailers drives unhealthy dietary choices. 

“We know that action is required to reduced the amount of these foods being both purchased and consumed, and the most effective way to achieve this is likely to be through bolder and more comprehensive action lead by government and legislated.”

While implementing the HFSS rules are necessary, the potential delay won’t have a serious negative impact she said: “Although disappointing that the introduction of the legislation has been delayed by six months, turning the tide on the obesity levels in the UK isn’t likely to occur quickly, and in the long term a delay of six months is unlikely to have too much impact.”

Delaying the HFSS law has been welcomed by the Food and Drinks Federation, as well as the Advertising Association and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA).

In November 2021, nearly 90% of UK retailers responded to a survey conducted by AI nutrition tech company Spoon Guru, saying they wanted more time and support in advance of the new HFSS law coming into force.

Not all companies see HFSS as a restriction however, as Tony Chocolonely’s Country Manager Ben Greensmith notes on a recent Table Talk episode. “If this just means that consumers are having to make a slightly more conscious choice, then it will ultimately have an impact on the category, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For those brands and products that are at the more premium end, we may see shoppers making more informed choices that means they may be buying a bit less but spending a bit more.”

The new rules could also bring big opportunities for companies trying to build their brands according to Jeremy Stern, CEO of PromoVeritas: “Yes, brand advertising is necessary in order to start to build that connection to the consumer, but we think that direct marketing and prize promotions now, this year, before the law comes in will then give you a platform for building up a database that you can use in future years when the law wouldn’t permit mainstream advertising.

“The new law does not stop you from having a direct relationship, via email or via post, with consumers. It’s mainly about distribution in supermarkets and in broadcast media.”

Stern also noted that while HFSS foods may move away from being at the front of supermarkets, healthier options may not replace them, with alcohol being a popular contender.

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