Almost half of UK retailers aren’t prepared for HFSS legislation

17 March 2022, 07:04 AM
  • The high fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) legislation isn't just for supermarkets - it will affect fine food retailers too. And many aren't prepared...
Almost half of UK retailers aren’t prepared for HFSS legislation

The landmark high in fat, salt, or sugar (HFSS) legislation is due to be introduced on the 1st October 2022 and seeks to curb Britain’s obesity crisis. HFSS is set to be one of the biggest challenges the retail and food and drink industries have faced so far.

However, new research from GS1 UK - the global standards organisation covering 90% of UK retailers – has revealed that almost half of businesses are not prepared for the introduction of HFSS legislation.

It also revealed that just one in three have assessed their products ahead of the October deadline, and a shocking 20% of businesses are unaware of the new legislation altogether.

While the new legislation will primarily affect supermarkets with BOGOF offers on high fat and sugary snacks, the reality is that it will affect the entire food sector, fine food retailers such as delis, farm shops and food halls included. For example, independent speciality food retailers could see challenges with some restrictions on sweet bakery goods and higher fat deli items.

Businesses may feel overwhelmed
Anne Godfrey, CEO of GS1 UK said: “The HFSS legislation represents a seismic shift for businesses across the UK and many of our 57,000 members will be affected. Whilst our research reveals that businesses and consumers are aligned on the benefits the changes can bring, the findings show there is much more to be done if the sentiment of the legislation is to become a reality.

“Many businesses feel overwhelmed with the challenges they have faced over the last two years, but there is no doubt that the industry, now more than ever, needs to take a standardised approach for the collection of quality data if they are to adapt quickly and confidently to new legislation and growing consumer demand.”

To make businesses feel less stressed about the looming deadline, GS1 UK has joined forces with the UK retail industry to launch an HFSS solution as an extension to its productDNA platform. The offering is free to all suppliers and manufacturers, enabling a common approach to capture and share quality data to support compliance with the new legislation.

The legislation is supported by businesses and consumers alike
While the impending rules will cause a headache for many retailers, HFSS is supported by the majority of both business owners and consumers, with 68% of the latter in support.

Professor Tim Lang, Professor Emeritus of Food Policy at City University of London’s Centre for Food Policy commented on the research saying: “It’s worrying to see that businesses across the food and drink industry do not feel prepared for the upcoming changes in legislation. Whilst the changes will no doubt affect how countless businesses operate, the new legislation is a crucial step toward solving issues around public health. It is, however, encouraging to see support for the introduction of the new rules amongst both the industry and the general public.”

Dezi Dalton, owner of Rye Deli agreed with the regulations, “As artisan retailers, we have always regarded the provenance of our produce. We put a value on quality and are passionate about having ethically sourced responsibly-made goods. We seek out such producers who reflect our ethics and ambitions. Indeed, you pay a little premium for some of these goods but in return, you get quality and often natural seasonings and sweeteners as better choices than processed fats, salts and sugars. The HFSS legislation is long overdue for the supermarkets to pay attention to good, healthy eating.”

The HFSS legislation should come into effect from the 1st October 2022 in the UK, but many retailers have been petitioning for the implementation to be pushed back until January 2023 at the earliest. Nevertheless, health secretary Sajid Javid recently told The Times the Government was “absolutely committed” to banning junk food promotions, so retailers should aim to be prepared by this autumn just in case.

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