Supermarkets call for extension on new HFSS laws: ‘This tight timeframe will add considerable cost and burden’

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

The new HFSS rules will see media and promotional restrictions applied to 'unhealthy products'. GettyImages/Hispanolistic
The new HFSS rules will see media and promotional restrictions applied to 'unhealthy products'. GettyImages/Hispanolistic

Related tags HFSS

In the UK, supermarket retailers are concerned the new proposed deadline of October 2022 for incoming HFSS legislation does not give them enough time to get their houses in order.

Decision-makers from the UK’s top 11 supermarkets have expressed concerns they don’t have enough time to comply with impending regulations on foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS).

The new HFSS rules will see media and promotional restrictions applied to ‘unhealthy products’.

Bans will be placed on volume productions, such as buy-one-get-one-frees and two-for-one deals, for such products. HFSS products will be barred from secondary promotional locations in stores, such as end of aisle displays, store entrances and checkouts.

The legislation also prohibits the marketing of such products on TV (pre-9pm) and online.

New rules were initially tabled for April 2022 enforcement. The Government has since extended its deadline to six months later in October 2022.

However, recent findings from a survey conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Spoon Guru, a tech supplier to the retail sector, suggest the October deadline is much too early for supermarkets.

Supermarkets express HFSS concerns

According to the survey, in which 101 respondents participated, 87% of the top UK supermarkets want an extension of up to six months (taking it to March 2023) or longer.

The respondents were classified as decision-makers for the companies’ compliance and regulation, and therefore have a role to play in the HFSS legislation changes.

The survey also asked participants what, in their opinion, key challenges were anticipated in complying with the new HFSS laws. All 11 supermarkets agreed there would be challenges in some form, with 35% of retailers responding they were worried about breaking the legislation rules.

More than 36% expressed concerns about keeping their product catalogue updated, with 33% worried about transparency on named brand formulations.

Just under 30% stated higher expectation of corporate responsibility to be an anticipated challenge, followed closely by challenges related to own label vs. national brands (28.71%), limited capacity and/or resources within the team (27.72%), and a limited or lack of budget (26.73%).

Almost one-quarter of supermarkets expressed concerns relating to data accuracy, 23% were worried about offsetting the potential impact of the legislation, and around 18% admitted they didn’t know where to begin with their preparations.

‘The current deadline must be reconsidered’

According to Markus Stripf, co-founder of Spoon Guru, the research indicates retailers are keen to support consumers in making healthy choices, but that the complexity of impending HFSS regulation represents a ‘real challenge’ for retailers.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), a trade association for retail businesses in the UK, agrees supermarkets have a difficult few months ahead of them due to complexities in the new laws.

“The new regulations are complex, wide reaching, and many fundamental questions remain unanswered,” ​Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, Assistant Director for Food at the BRC told FoodNavigator.

“While retailers are working hard to prepare, it is vital that all provisions are clear, and a reasonable timeframe is given for extensive and significant work to be carried out.”

For the BRC, the current proposed deadline of October 2022 is much too soon. It ‘must be reconsidered’, the assistant director stressed, as it is ‘only 10 months away’ and ‘many areas remain unclear’.

“Retailers will strive to undertake any required changes, but this tight timeframe will add considerable cost and burden.” 

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