How will the HFSS legislation affect my drink brand?

May 26, 2022

HFSS legislation

As a new law is set to restrict how high-sugar food and drink are positioned and advertised, drinks brands must prepare to adapt their products and promotions.

New regulations surrounding the promotion of food and drink high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) are expected to be a significant change to the food and drink industry.

And although elements of the HFSS legislation have recently [May 2022] been deferred by 12 months, drinks brands are advised to get ahead of all the changes. Changes to where HFSS products can be located will still come into force from October 2022, while new rules around how HFSS products are promoted are now expected to come in in October 2023.

The legislation is one of a number of government moves intending to tackle obesity by limiting consumer’s, particularly children’s, exposure to HFSS products.

What is the HFSS legislation?

The High Fat Sugar and Salt Legislation restricts or prohibits the advertising or promotion of produce deemed unhealthy based on its fat, sugar or salt content. It will curb where, when and how retailers can position and promote items, covering in-store, online and in the media.

Primarily, the regulations will restrict offers like multibuys or unlimited refills, curtail the visibility of HFSS goods in prominent areas of shops, and ban advertisements of HFSS produce to children before a nighttime ‘watershed’.

It is intended to herald a shift in shopping habits, encouraging consumers to seek out healthy options.

Drinks brands are now working to develop new products, reformulate existing recipes, and work with retailers ahead of the legislation being brought in.

Which drinks will the HFSS legislation effect?

The new restrictions apply to all ‘prepared soft drinks with added sugar ingredients’. This includes still and carbonated soft drinks as well as sweetened juices and sweetened milk-based drinks with a sugar content of more than 4.5%.

It does not effect alcoholic drinks.

How will the HFSS legislation restrict the promotion of drinks brands?

The legislation restricts how and where drinks with HFSS content can be promoted.

It will prohibit promotions designed to increase the volume of product purchased – such as multibuy offers or promotions offering ‘50% extra free’. The promotion of HFSS drinks as ‘free refills’ will also be restricted.

However, these promotion-related aspects of the HFSS legislation have recently been delayed, with the government saying it first wants to “review and monitor the impact of restrictions on the cost of living”. It has set a provisional date of October 2023 instead.

If implemented, it is expected there will be a transition period for promotional aspects of the HFSS legislation in a bid to reduce food waste. Where packaging includes a volume price promotion, this can be sold up to a later date (yet to be confirmed) to prevent produce already packaged and labelled from going to waste.

Additionally, where produce can be promoted is to change. Within shops, promotions within two metres of the checkouts or queuing areas, and on aisle ends, at store entrances or in covered external areas, will all be restricted or prohibited. These location changes will still come in in October 2022.

Which retailers must follow the new HFSS legislation?

The legislation must be adhered to by most online and traditional retailers. It will be law for all businesses with 50 or more employees, including those whose primary product is not actually food or drink retail. This also includes stores part of a wider franchise or symbol group where 50 or more employees operate under the same brand name. For retail outlets, though, it is only applicable to stores of 2,000 sq ft or greater.

Will the HFSS legislation affect promotion of my drinks brand on retailers’ websites?

As with in-person retail, the legislation also restricts how and where drinks brands can be promoted online.

Promotions will no longer be permitted on the homepages or landing pages of websites, or as a customer is browsing other food categories. Similarly, ‘pop up’ promotions and pages not intentionally visited or opened by customers will not be allowed, nor will advertising HFSS products on a customers’ favourite or most visited product page or their basket page.

What restrictions will apply to advertising HFSS drinks?

The legislation restricts how and when any HFSS produce can be advertised. Primarily this will see a nighttime ‘watershed’ introduced, preventing HFSS product advertising before 9pm, in a bid to limit children’s exposure to this produce. However, this measure is unlikely to be brought in until January 2024, as part of the transition period.

Likewise, HFSS produce adverts targeting children online, via display, video, social media or paid search, will be prohibited. Full details of how the online ban will be enforced are yet to be published.

How can I work within the restraints of the HFSS legislation?

The constraints of the new HFSS regulations can be avoided by refining recipes to develop drinks with lower sugar content. Vitally, this can be achieved without impacting flavour.

The soft drinks market has already proved the viability of these changes, having reduced sugar in products by 17% since the introduction of the ‘sugar tax’ in 2018 while growing sales overall.

At Simpsons Beverages we offer low sugar options across our entire range of soft drinks, to work within the upcoming HFSS legislation. Get in touch to discuss your needs.

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