Range of high fat, salt and sugar foods

Understand UK HFSS legislation in 3 points

16 May 2022 | Sharon Morey, UK/EU Regulatory Affairs Team Manager and Rachel Rosin, Product Prototyping Team Lead

A new series of restrictions on the promotion of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) comes into force in part in England and Wales in October 2022. To encourage food and drink businesses to produce and promote healthier foods and lifestyles, the legislation restricts the placement and in-store promotions, of certain HFSS products.

These new rules do not replace the existing advertising codes of practice (CAP) rules that cover certain kinds of promotional communications, particularly when advertising products to children or which may be attractive to them. The new legislation places additional restrictions on specific categories of products however the current CAP rules still apply to all products regardless of whether they fall within an impacted food category for the new legislation.

The new rules banning multibuy deals on foods and drinks and restrictions on free refills for soft drinks will now be delayed for a year. The planned restrictions for banning HFSS being advertised on TV before 9pm and paid-for adverts online have also been pushed back and will come into force January 2024.

But what exactly is HFSS food and drink legislation? What does HFSS mean for manufacturers, brands and retailers? What should businesses do about it?

1. What is an HFSS product?

Impacted food and drink categories are listed in The Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021 and include soft drinks, savoury snacks, confectionery and pizza. However, this does not mean every product within each category is impacted. Each is rated on an individual product level by a ‘Nutrient Profile Score’ with 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 classed as HFSS products.

Brands are responsible for providing accurate information about the nutritional profile of their products to sellers.

2. What are the implications in store and online of the HFSS legislation?

In-store laws have been passed and are applicable from 1st October 2022 in England and Wales. HFSS products will no longer be eligible for placement in ‘impulse’ areas such as checkouts or gondola ends. Some exemptions do apply to specific stores including those smaller than 185.8 square metres (2,000 square feet), speciality food stores that sell one type of product, such as chocolate and for businesses with less than 50 employees. The onus, will be placed on the retailer to comply with the regulations.

The legislation originally intended to bring into force restrictions to also ban volume and price promotional activities (for example, multibuy offers, 2 for 1) and free refill offers on HFSS drinks at the same time, however, the government announced on 14 May 2022 that these provisions are now to be delayed for a year until October 2023.

In addition, further rules banning products deemed to be HFSS from advertising on TV between 9pm and 5.30am and an outright ban on digital platforms due to come into effort from January 2023 will also be postponed for 12 months until January 2024.

The new regulations affect retailers, manufacturers and food business operators selling their food and drink products.

3. How can businesses prepare for HFSS regulations?

Although the Regulations do not kick in until 1 October 2022, businesses should start thinking now about how the legislation will affect them.

In practical terms, the new policy means that many brands will need to reformulate if they want to avoid any curbs on marketing activity. The way in which the HFSS scoring system has been set up deliberately prevents food companies from simply adding positive nutrition, such as protein or fibre, to balance the bad. Manufacturers need to bring down the saturated fat, salt and sugar content first.

This presents several challenges because these elements contribute to important functional characteristics such as: taste, shelf-life, texture, stability, mouthfeel, handling and production reliability and play a major role in our overall eating experience. Consequently, if consumers do not buy the reformulated product after tasting it, despite substantial promotional activity, achieving non-HFSS status may not be economically viable. That is why it is so important to optimise reformulation to ensure the characteristics and integrity of the original product as much as possible.

Campden BRI understands the current challenges associated with using fat, sugar, and salt in recipes. Thanks to our extensive knowledge, experience and expertise, we can support our clients with the technicalities of product reformulation, evaluate the effects of potential changes on consumers acceptance and satisfaction and therefore help maximise profit.

With over 100 years of experience in supporting the food and drink industry to achieve its objectives in producing high-quality, reduced-fat, reduced-sugar and reduced-salt products with an extended shelf-life, our aim is to help companies produce healthier and cost-effective products that meet consumer taste expectations. Our innovation and application expert teams can provide sensory, functionality and nutritional solutions that are sustainable, to support businesses to get ready for HFSS regulation.

Contact our experts to discuss reformulation work, ingredients solutions and consumer sensory needs.

Contact our Regulatory Affairs team to find out more about these new regulations.

Sharon Morey

About Sharon Morey

Sharon Morey is a Regulatory Affairs Team Manager in the Global Regulatory Affairs Department at Campden BRI. She has more than 30 years experience working in the food manufacturing and food retail industry.

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Rachel Rosin

About Rachel Rosin

Rachel joined Campden BRI in 2009 as a packaging technologist after graduating from Reading university where she obtained a BSc in Food Science.

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