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‘Hot topics’ top 5 – the key focus areas and industry challenges that our members are talking about

15 March 2024

From our Spring and Autumn 2023 Member Interest Group (MIG) meetings, we have compiled the top 5 food and drink industry ‘hot topics’ that our members were most often discussing.

Across all of our 2023 MIG meetings combined, the top 5 topics were:

  1. Ultra-processed food – the definitions and implications;
  2. Lack of harmonisation across the UK and EU Member States for recycling (both legislation and infrastructure);
  3. Staff recruitment and retention;
  4. Recyclability of food contact packaging, and the challenges of reducing packaging and introducing more sustainable packaging options;
  5. HFSS scores and other nutrient profiling.

In the rest of this blog, we provide further detail on these topics, including useful information and how we can help our members and clients in these areas.

1. ‘Ultra-processed’ definitions and implications

There is no universally agreed or official definition for ultra-processed foods, and there are multiple models for categorising them. The most well known classification is the NOVA system, which categorises all food products into one of four ‘groups’ – 1. ‘Unprocessed and minimally processed’, 2. ‘Processed culinary ingredients’, 3. ‘Processed’, and 4. ‘Ultra-processed’.

As well as the media scrutiny around this subject, and its influence on consumer perceptions and desires, there is also a concern that the focus on the level of processing of products and ingredients may be at the detriment of a need to remain focussed on the nutritional value of products.

Information from research in this area is continuing to grow, and it will no doubt remain a hot topic for some time to come.

We can help with:

  • Advice and guidance on the latest research into the nutritional effect of UPF;
  • Interpretation of which NOVA classification category your products would fall under;
  • ‘Clean label’ product development and renovation;
  • HFSS and other nutritional calculations;
  • Legislation and labelling.
Selection of recyclable food packaging

2. Recycling across the UK and EU

One of the objectives within the current Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC of 20 December 1994 on packaging and packaging waste, which is retained in UK legislation) is the harmonisation of measures concerning management of packaging and packaging waste. There is however a lack of harmonisation between EU and UK, between UK devolved nations, and between EU member states when it comes to packaging requirements (recycled packaging and recyclability of packaging), labelling requirements and recycling infrastructure.

On 30th November 2022, the European Commission published Proposal for a Regulation of t he European Parliament and of the Council on packaging and packaging waste, amending Regulation (EU) 2019/1020 and Directive (EU) 2019/904, and repealing Directive 94/62/EC.

In terms of addressing harmonisation (across the EU at least), it is a step change that the proposed new legislation is a regulation (as such, it will be mandatory across all EU Member States). As opposed to a directive, where implementing legislation (which can vary between member states in terms of how the requirements of the directive are achieved) needs to be put in place within national legislation.

Key parts of the new regulation (currently expected to be enacted by the end of 2024) are packaging waste reduction targets, reusable packaging and re-use targets, deposit return schemes, restrictions on certain packaging formats, and packaging labelling requirements regarding composition / recyclability / disposal instructions.

We can help with:

3. Recruitment and retention

Recruitment and retention issues, as well as being challenges in themselves, can also create further difficulties in relation to skills and knowledge gaps, as well as challenge the building and maturing of a positive food safety culture within a food business.

In these situations, it is as important as every to focus on your food safety and quality culture. Food business operators need to nurture a culture in which everyone will ‘do the right thing right’ at all times, even when under pressure – ensuring that food safety and quality are non-negotiable and never compromised.

A positive culture also has the added benefit of employees feeling comfortable, confident and empowered, because they have clarity of purpose and expectations, the knowledge and resources to do their job, and are trusted to do it and to make decisions. All of which will help with retention, and will ensure that new employees are entering a supportive and positive environment.

4. Challenges associated with reduction, recyclability and sustainability of food contact packaging

With pressure still high for food and drink manufacturers to reduce packaging and improve the recyclability and sustainability of the packaging they do use, this is inevitably in careful balance with the functions that the packaging needs to deliver. Any changes need to be thought through carefully, and the impact on product quality and waste assessed.

When looking to introduce new or changed packaging, it’s important to consider the impact of any change on the packaging function and integrity, storage requirements, supply chain, stability / robustness, ease of use and handling, shelf-life (of packaging and product), cost and consumer perception.

We can help with:

Selection of foods high in fat, sugar and salt

5. HFSS scores and other nutrient profiling

Currently, food and drink categories impacted by The Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021 are listed in the legislation and include, for example, soft drinks, savoury snacks, confectionery and pizza. However, not every product within each category is impacted. Each is rated on an individual product level by a ‘Nutrient Profiling Model’ score, which attributes negative points for calorie density, saturated fat, sugar and sodium, and positive points for protein, fibre, fruit, vegetables and nuts. Foods that score four or more and drinks that score one or more are categorised as HFSS products. The current legislation is only applicable in England, but the other devolved UK nations are in the process of developing their own rules.

The challenge highlighted by our members relates to foods typically considered as 'healthy' achieving a low score, and vice versa.

We can help with:

  • Recipe formulation and reformulation;
  • Reducing fat, sugar, and salt in recipes;
  • Consumer acceptance and satisfaction;
  • HFSS scores and other nutrient profiling;
  • Calculating Nutrient Profiling Model scores;
  • Legislation and labelling.

You can also read our blog on promotional restrictions in the UK for products that are high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS).

Join the MIG meetings to benefit from insights, networking and more

We have 15 different MIGs to choose from, and our members can join as many as they wish – as well as having the opportunity to put themselves forward for chairperson roles.

Any member of Campden BRI can attend MIG meetings – MIG attendance is free to members as part of their member benefits. Our MIGs are chaired by member companies to ensure meeting content is relevant to the needs of the industry.

The meetings run twice per year (Spring and Autumn) and are great opportunities to discuss topical industrial issues, meet with industry peers, consider the impact of emerging legislation, select and steer research projects and enjoy early access to research results and the latest insights from industry leaders.

Members – sign up to any MIGs of interest via our MIG page. Non-members – we encourage you to explore our membership and membership benefits pages, or get in touch to find out more.

Find your Member Interest Group (MIG)

Browse the 15 different groups available and sign up

View MIGs


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