Getting Ready for Regulatory Changes in Europe

girl drinking orange juice

New food and beverage regulations around the marketing of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products are set to begin in 2022

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KerryDigest Fast Facts:

  • The UK Department of Health and Social Care has identified obesity—including childhood obesity—as one of the biggest health problems facing the UK.
  • Legislation restricting the marketing and advertising of less healthy high fat, salt and sugar products (HFSS) will come into effect in October 2022, not April 2022 as originally planned.
  • There are proposed changes for elsewhere in Europe too. For example, the EU Farm to Fork Strategy, which was published in May 2020 as part of the European Green Deal, proposes several initiatives that aim to improve the nutritional content of foods.
  • UK retailers are taking a pragmatic approach to the legislative changes, with many adopting an innovative approach in the development of healthier products in addition to reformulating HFSS foods and beverages.

KerryDigest Full Scoop:

The UK government will implement new food and beverage product legislation in October 2022—not April 2022, as originally planned—in response to the growing obesity crisis. These regulations will target products that are deemed “less healthy”, or high in fat, salt, and/or sugar (HFSS) as defined by the 2004/2005 UK Nutrient Profile Model (NPM). These restrictions will affect how the food and beverage industry can promote certain products in store as well as via advertising both on TV and online.

yogurt parfaitProduct reformulation can help brands create products that are deemed healthier and non-HFSS.

Despite the delayed implementation, UK manufacturers now face a relatively short time frame to reformulate their HFSS products. Products that remain HFSS after the legislation begins will face promotional and advertising restrictions as well as the risk of fines for noncompliance.

Calculating HFSS scores

To determine if a product is HFSS or non-HFSS, the UK NPM is used. The less energy, sodium, saturated fat and sugar is in a product—and the greater the inclusion of protein, fibre, fruits, vegetables and nuts—the more favourable the score. A product is deemed HFSS when the NPM score is 4 or greater for a food and 1 or more for a beverage.

Categories affected and changes imposed

The range of categories potentially affected by the new HFSS scoring system is wide. It includes sugar sweetened beverages; breakfast cereals; yoghurts; crisps and savoury snacks; ready meals; breaded and battered fish, meat and poultry; and meat alternatives.

For products that fall into the HFSS category, the below restrictions will apply:

  1. Restrictions on volume-price promotions and locations: Promotions designed to increase product purchase volume will no longer be permitted for HFSS foods and beverages. This includes multi-buy promotions such as ‘buy one get one free’ as well as offers such as ‘30% extra free’, and free refills of sugar sweetened drinks at out-of-home businesses. In addition, HFSS products will not allowed to be sold at store entrances, aisle ends or checkout areas. Changes are also coming to online shopping. (Read more.)
  2. TV and online advertising restrictions: A ban on the television advertising of HFSS products between 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. and an outright ban of online advertising will be implemented by government before the end of 2022. This regulation applies to pre-packaged products and out-of-home menu items. (Read More)
  3. Mandatory calorie labelling for out-of-home products: Beginning in April 2022, large out-of-home businesses will be required to display calorie information on menus, menu boards and accompanying labels if a product is on display. The information must show kcal of a standard portion on the menu next to the description or the price. This also applies to websites if the food or beverage is available to purchase online. (Read more.)
What do I need to do and when?

These restrictions will have a major effect on food and beverage marketing, and the impact to sales is estimated to be considerable. However, product reformulation can help brands create products that are deemed healthier and non-HFSS. Product innovation through the creation of healthier products is another option.

father and son eating breakfastProducts that remain HFSS after the legislation begins will face promotional and advertising restrictions as well as the risk of fines for noncompliance.

  • Strategy #1: Reduce salt, fat and sugar
    The reduction of salt, fat and sugar is an obvious starting place for brands with HFSS products, but because these ingredients add key taste and functional properties, they must be replaced by other ingredients, such as a combination of taste modulators and other functional ingredients that can add mouthfeel, functionality, build back flavour or mask off-notes.
  • Strategy #2: Increase protein, fibre, fruits, vegetables and nuts
    To increase the content of healthy ingredients in a product, brands can explore strategies such as experimenting with new, healthier recipes or fortifying an existing product with beneficial ingredients such as added protein or fibre.

Although the enforcement of HFSS regulations has been pushed back to October 2022, because these strategies align with consumer demand for sustainable nutrition and clean label products, launching healthier food and beverage products sooner may benefit sales and help brands stand out from the crowd.

What is happening in the rest of Europe?

In May of 2020, the European Union published its Farm to Fork strategy which focuses on improving the nutritional content of foods. Amongst the ideas laid out is a proposal to stimulate reformulation by setting maximum levels for certain nutrients; setting restrictions on the promotion of HFSS products; and a proposal to add mandatory front-of-pack nutrition labelling to products sold in EU countries.

The target deadlines for these actions are between late 2021 and late 2022.

In addition, the EU Code of Conduct recently launched. This outlines several voluntary ambitions for the food industry as it strives to align with the Farm to Fork Strategy. On the day it launched, 65 companies and associations signed up, suggesting that the reformulation revolution is upon us.

Through Kerry’s world class innovation and application expertise, we can provide taste, functionality and nutrition solutions that are sustainable to support your business. To learn more about our reformulation and fortification expertise and ingredients, contact us. To learn more about these new regulations, read the Kerry Health and Nutrition Institute article, "Restrictions on Advertising Unhealthy Foods--A Guide to Navigate Upcoming UK HFSS Legislation". 

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