The UK government is launching a 12-week consultation on potential new restrictions on the promotion of food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS).
The consultation is calling on both the industry and public to share views on the restriction of multibuy promotions on HFSS products – such as “but one, get one free” – and the restriction of promotions of HFSS products at checkouts, end of aisles and store entrances.
The consultation is part of the government’s ongoing childhood obesity plan.
According to the Department of Health, the new rules would only apply to deals that promote HFSS food and drinks that are most often consumed by children. They would not stop discounts on household essentials.
The Department added that businesses would also still be free to offer discounts for individual sales of HFSS items, as this does not require consumers to buy more in order to benefit from savings.
Industry slams “grossly insensitive” consultation
Much of the food industry has rallied against the consultation, with the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) lampooning it as “gross insensitive and a monumental distraction”.
“It looks like the Department of Health and Social Care is out of touch with economic realities and with the rest of Government, whose sole focus now is preventing the catastrophe of no-deal,” said FDF Chief Operating Officer Tim Rycroft.
“This consultation – already late – should have waited until the uncertainty we face is resolved.”
He added: “What’s more, this proposed plan is both wrong-headed and muddled. A promotions ban would make shopping more expensive and reduce choice.
“Shoppers love the UK’s, vibrant, good-value, innovative food and drink market, and promotions underpin that. They allow new products and brands to win space on supermarket shelves and help new products to get shoppers’ attention.
“Limiting the effectiveness of these mechanisms would stifle innovation and lock-in the positions of dominant brands. It would make it harder for challenger brands and start-ups to break into the market.
“Promotions also play a big role in making food more affordable. Government data shows that, on average, people would have to spend £634 a year more for the same food if promotions were banned.”
“For more than ten years the food and drink industry has risen to the UK’s significant obesity challenge. Favourite products have been reformulated to reduce sugar, calories, fat and salt. Portion sizes have been limited.
“Some of these principals have now been adopted as part of Public Health England’s own reformulation programmes.
“Preventing companies from promoting these reformulated, healthier options to consumers would be mad; but that’s what the Government wants to do. This is a bizarre and contradictory public health policy.”