HFSS regulations vs cost of living crisis: ‘It’s encouraging to see the government listening’

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

'As the cost-of-living crisis bites, it is encouraging to see the government listening to the public.' Pic: GettyImages/We Are
'As the cost-of-living crisis bites, it is encouraging to see the government listening to the public.' Pic: GettyImages/We Are

Related tags HFSS Kp snacks Uk government Obesity BOGOF Kellogg company SPQR Communications

The UK government has announced a deferment of the HFSS regulations for a year – originally to come into force in October 2022 – citing the ‘unprecedented’ financial pressures facing hard-up Brits.

The regulations ban volume-based promotions (buy one get one free, 50% extra and so forth) – now viewed as a lifesaver by many – on foods deemed high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS), and place limits on the advertising of the so-called junk food.

These restraints have now been shelved for a year, but still in force, is the instore and online placement of HFSS foods in prominent locations.

The game-changing rules were announced by PM Boris Johnson in July 2020, in an effort to curb the nation’s rapidly expanding waistlines. But, like the onslaught of COVID, the government wasn’t expecting the runaway inflation, which is expected to rise by as much as 9.1% in the year to April, the highest increase in consumer prices since records began in 1989.

Many Brits are buckling under the pressure, to the point where some are even foregoing heat to eat (thankfully, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he is working on plans to increase the Warm Home Discount Scheme).

So, it’s encouraging to see the government listening to the public, said Mike Coppen-Gardener, MD of SPQR Communications and a panellist on BakeryandSnacks' Healthy Snacking webinar.

This is a far cry from breakfast cereal giant Kellogg Company accusation last month, taking the government to court for allegedly failing to enter into a ‘reasonable conversation’.

“Whilst we support the need to tackle obesity, our work understanding what is relevant to the public shows that, to be accepted, regulation needs to reflect the concerns of the public,” ​Coppen-Gardner told this site after learning of the stay.

“The public were not on board with this move, and the Government’s decision to postpone legislation will be a welcome relief which enables consumers to make every penny count.”

Are you ready?

HFSS items are defined as foods scoring four points or higher and beverages scoring one or higher in the UK's 2004-2005 Nutrient Profiling Model. So directly in the firing line are sweet bakes, salty snacks and breakfast cereals, but according to BakeryandSnacks’ sister publication, The Grocer, a large percentage of marketing managers admit they’re not prepared for the changes.

It added the changes have the ‘potential to disrupt the market’ but also ‘great opportunity for success for those who are innovative, creative, and have identified a method to continuously reach their consumers – particularly a younger audience.’

Despite the postponement, KP Snacks is one of the companies getting ahead of the regulations.

The German-owned British producer of branded snacks has launched the latest of its reformulated products, namely Tyrrells Lightly Sea Salted and Hula Hoops Puft (Salt & Vinegar, Salt and Grilled Beef flavours).

It said the non-HFSS offerings are positioned to support retailers in driving CSN sales and can be displayed anywhere instore. They are also ahead of the game to take advantage of the multibuy concept, expected to see restraints next year.

The launch of Hula Hoops Puft is paired with a packaging refresh to stand out on shelf and will be supported by a £1.5m media campaign to drive consumer awareness.

“We are committed to supporting retailers as we approach the introduction of HFSS legislation in October and reformulating and launching tasty non-HFSS products is just one way we are doing this,”​ said Matt Collins, trading director at KP Snacks.

This week, the government is expected to announce the new timetable for the still-in-play HFSS product placement controls, which will now be introduced in two stages.

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