U.K. Retailers Seek Clarity on Sweets and Snack Restrictions

Government legislation will limit the display and promotion of high fat, sugar and salty food items at certain retailers.

August 31, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—U.K. retailers are asking their wholesalers and suppliers for additional clarity on the government’s restrictions on high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) products, reports Better Retailing.

The restrictions take effect this October, and the legislation restricts where impulse sweets and snack foods and beverages can be displayed in shops and how they can be promoted. The rules 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 Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said the restrictions will affect between 5,000 and 10,000 convenience stores, depending on how the government defines franchises. A one-page explainer on the regulations is available to download from the ACS.

The measures are part of the U.K.’s fight against childhood obesity, and retailers can’t stock HFSS items by the checkout or at the end of gondolas. The rules include restrictions on multibuy promotions such as “buy one get one free” or “3 for 2” offers on these products, but those will not be implemented until October 2023.

“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,” said ACS Chief Executive James Lowman in a statement. “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.”

Anish Panchmatia, of One Stop Wylde Green, expressed concern over certain items not traditionally considered sweets and snacks that do include high amounts of sugar, such as certain teas, coffees and pasta sauces.

“At the manufacturing end, there needs to be a simple stamp on a product to say whether an item is compliant. We’ve spoken to One Stop about upgrading their IT system so that when we reorder, the system will tell us whether an item is HFSS-compliant or not,” Panchmatia told Better Retailing.

U.K. wholesalers Nisa and Parfetts are lifting their support for their retailer clients.

“Our product catalogue and promotional briefs will flag those products that are non-compliant with HFSS, and over the coming months, both leading up to and beyond the introduction of the new regulations, we will continue to talk to our retailers and ensure they are aware of the impact,” a Nisa spokesperson told Better Retailing.

“HFSS has not been an issue for our retailers because they fall under the 2,000 square-foot rule. However, due to the success of our offer, we are now starting to attract retailers with larger stores and will proactively work with them to ensure they optimize their retail operations while adhering to the HFSS regulations,” Jamie Ferguson, Parfetts’ head of marketing, told Better Retailing.

Nearly two-thirds of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity and 1 in 3 children leave primary school overweight or obese, according to the Department of Health and Social Care. Obesity-related illnesses cost the National Health Service £6 billion ($US8.07 billion) a year.