Sugar Talk Sugar Talk
Sugar regulations in the UK: the HFSS rules
If you’re a food and beverage manufacturer in the UK, you know the regulations governing how you formulate and market your products. You’ll also be aware that they’re constantly changing. Read this article to know more about the impact of the new HFSS (high fat, salt and sugar) legislation.
What is the HFSS legislation?
The government regulates our food and beverages for two main reasons: food safety and public health. There are many established laws covering food labelling and safety: they exist to reduce the risk of food poisoning and accidents. Most food safety and hygiene laws are enforced by the Food Standards Agency. The HFSS legislation will be policed by local authority environmental health departments and Trading Standards teams.
The HFSS legislation, or The Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021, was brought in to manage public health: the government is trying to reduce obesity, and obesity related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, in a number of ways. The Soft Drinks Industry Levy is another example of this.
When the Government announced new restrictions on promotions of HFSS products by location and price in December 2020, retailers learned that from 1 October 2022, they would no longer be able to place HFSS products at store entrances, aisle ends and checkouts. The rules also cover online equivalents like landing pages and shopping baskets.
‘Volume price restrictions’, prohibiting retailers from offering price promotions such as ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ or ‘3 for 2’ offers on HFSS products, are also due to come into force on 1 October 2023.
A ban on television adverts for HFSS foods before 9pm and a sweeping ban on HFSS advertising online was due for 1 January 2023, but Government announced in June 2022 that the plans were being delayed to January 2024, however the policy was delayed further, and is now set for October 2025. The Government has provided guidance for manufacturers and retailers (which applies to England).
What do the HFSS regulations mean to food and beverage manufacturers?
At Ragus, most of our customers have been aware new rules are coming well before the commencement dates were finally confirmed, so they were already prepared for challenges and changes.
For example, many soft drinks manufacturers have been replacing at least some of the sugar in their most popular drinks with aspartame, stevia or another non-nutritive sweetener. This was initially in response to the introduction of the sugar levy in 2018, and reformulation has been steadily growing since.
However, despite the best efforts of the Government and major retailers to reduce the sales of HFSS products, the location restrictions aren’t deterring shoppers like they were supposed to, with some stores reporting an increase in sales across confectionery, snacks and other HFSS goods.
One Spar retailer told The Grocer that because his store now places HFSS products all in one place on the confectionery aisle, it makes it easier for customers to access them. As a result, confectionery sales had gone up by 11.5% in the past year.
While food campaigners and the Government see taxes on sugar and HFSS policies as breakthroughs, time will tell if they are to have any real effect on obesity levels in the UK.
The evidence and immediate impact of measures such as HFSS suggests the obesity crisis may be a much wider and deeper problem than the availability of high-calorie food and drinks, with strong links to poverty and a lack of education on healthy eating.
Making HFSS foods harder to find in supermarkets and banning BOGOFs might be a good start to tackling the problem of obesity and its wider impact on the population’s health, but policymakers need to widen their focus beyond the food and beverage industry.
Ragus supplies high-quality pure sugar syrups and crystalline sugars to industrial food and beverage producers. Our customers rely on our customer service, deep knowledge of the sugar industry and expertise on the applications of sugar.