U.K. Shops Forced to Rethink Impulse Item Displays

New government rules will bar snacks and sweets from checkout areas, store entrances and endcaps.

July 26, 2021

Snack Counter at Checkout

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The U.K. Department of Health and Social Care last week confirmed that it will move forward with a plan to restrict where impulse sweets and snack foods and beverages can be displayed in shops and how they can be promoted, starting October 2022 as part of the government’s anti-obesity strategy.

The new rules take effect six months later than initially proposed and apply to brick and mortar stores larger than 2,000 square feet in size with 50 or more employees, chains or franchises with 50 or more employees and online marketplaces.

The ACS (Association of Convenience Stores) said the restrictions will affect between 5,000 and 10,000 convenience stores, depending on how the government defines franchises.

“The extension to the timeframes ahead of implementation is welcome, but it’s still not a lot of time to make significant changes to stores when retailers are rightly still focusing on keeping colleagues and customers safe during a pandemic,” said ACS chief executive James Lowman in a statement. “We urge the Government to look again at the implementation dates and put in place a more sensible timeline to allow retailers to prepare.”

Under the proposal, stores will be restricted in where they can place foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). Retailers won’t be able to put these products: at the entrance to the store, within two meters of a checkout area, within two meters of a designated queueing area or in an end-of-aisle display. All of these placements help to boost impulse purchases in store and increase basket rings.

The proposal also restricts promotions such as multibuys and “buy one get one” offers for products deemed to be high in fat, salt or sugar.

A wide range of popular foods are under threat, including packaged sweet snacks, candy, cold dispensed beverages, frozen dispensed beverages, salty snacks, ready-to-eat meals, pizza, fries, ice cream, pudding, yogurt, and breakfast cereals. A one-page explainer on the regulations is available to download from the ACS.

“Forcing shops to change their store layouts is an extreme measure that cannot achieve significant public health gains given that the convenience store sector accounts for less than a quarter of the grocery market,” Lowman said. “This is another significant burden on small shops, and there’s a growing sense that the government are throwing every idea and policy intervention at the problem without a clear idea of what will be effective.”

The National Food Strategy report commissioned by the U.K. government recommends a £3 billion (US$4.13 billion) sugar and salt tax to curb obesity, reduce meat consumption and help address climate change.

The Food and Drink Federation, a U.K. trade group, said the new policies on snack foods and also recycling will boost the typical family’s average grocery bill by £160 (US$220) year, the Guardian reports.

“The suggestion that we should introduce further food taxes at this time is madness,” Ian Wright, chair of the trade group, told the Guardian. “It is an insult to the hardworking families of this country to be told what to do by those who can’t begin to imagine how tough the last year has been.”

Separately in the U.K., Simply Fresh said grocer Sainsbury’s is ending its wholesale supply business across all retail channels, including convenience stores, within the next 12 months, Convenience Store UK reports. Simply Fresh’s partnership with Sainsbury’s began in January 2020. Independent retailers who signed on could stock the supermarket’s own-label and branded products in their local shops, plus produce, meat, fish and food to go. Technology and logistics, store design and development and stock management systems and support were also available as part of the network.

Simply Fresh carved a niche in offering fresh, authentic and locally sourced food. Read more about Simply Fresh in NACS Magazine.