HFSS Advertising

* 5 min read
Rebecca explores the new rules and challenges for advertising and promoting food and drink High in Fat, Sugar and Salt.

In 2018 the Government launched a strategy to halve childhood obesity by 2030 based on data that indicated that 1 in 3 children leaving primary school in England are overweight or obese. This is based on evidence that suggests that children are exposed to a significant amount of advertising for less healthy food and drink, more so after school and especially during the hours of 6pm and 9pm.

Because it is felt that the current restrictions on the advertising of less healthy food and drink products do not go far enough to protect children from seeing unhealthy food adverts on TV and online, the Government decided that new legislation is required to ensure children’s exposure to HFSS (High Fat, Sugar and Salt) advertising is reduced.

Therefore, at the end of 2022, the Health and Care Bill relating to the advertising of less healthy food and drink was to introduce a 9pm watershed for the advertising of such food and drink on TV, and a restriction on ‘paid-for’ advertising online. However, a change to this implementation date has now been confirmed as January 2024 which health campaigners are strongly criticising, with many feeling the Government isn’t acting quickly enough to tackle childhood obesity.

The new rules will only apply to the advertising of ‘identifiable’ less healthy food and drink products that are regarded as ‘of most concern to childhood obesity’. To identify whether a product is less healthy, a two-staged approach will be used: Firstly, the product will need to fall under one of the listed food and drink categories which mirror those in the ‘The Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021’, with additional categories for the ‘Out of Home Sector’, which will be established in future legislation. Secondly, by meeting the criteria for HFSS and receiving a score of 4 or more if a food or 1 or more if a drink, using the Nutrient Profile Model.

It’s important to note that there are several exclusions from the prohibitions. Brand advertising will be exempt from both the 9pm watershed and online restrictions if the advertising does not include any identifiable less healthy products. There will also be an exemption for small/medium enterprises from both these restrictions. Other examples of exclusions include business to business advertising and audio, such as podcasts and radio online.

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Image Source: Unsplash - Amanda Shepherd

Challenges for Retailers for HFSS Promotion and Placement Legislation

As the new legislation will affect the product placement of identifiable less healthy products in store and also the promotion of multi-buy deals e.g., buy one get one free offers (of which there is also a one year delay in its implementation), manufacturers and retailers will likely pay particular attention to reformulating their products to bring them outside the scope of the new rules. Either this or perhaps focus on their strategic plans relating to promotion and price. 

Ensuring the baseline nutrition information is accurate will be essential, as there may be several products that are on the borderline of the scoring threshold and therefore the reformulation of these products could be targeted. For example, fibre and protein can have a positive impact on the overall score but this is also dependent on other factors such as high scores for fruit, vegetables, and nuts.

Keep an eye out for our next HFSS blog which will provide examples of previously outstanding queries now covered in the latest Government guidance.

Here at Sun Strategy, we guide you through the new Government legislation and provide transparent advice and guidance for today and tomorrow. Our team of regulatory experts combine our broad industry expertise to create responsible strategies to ensure your vision is delivered across your product range with compliance protocols in place to protect your brand and mitigate risk. We enjoy open, honest and respectful partnerships with our clients which ensures alignment to a common purpose and shared goals.

About the author

imageedit 1 6168940299Rebecca Cusworth - Regulatory Account Director

Rebecca has a strong track record of success and close working relationships with her clients. She is noted for her professionalism, knowledge and ability to navigate successfully and intuitively within the often-complex world of food regulatory affairs. Earning her master’s degree in food law, Rebecca is a specialist across all areas of food labelling and has worked within the FMCG sector for 15 years, leading retailers and food manufacturers through major legislative change. A true collaborator who has dedicated herself to protecting the reputation and integrity of her customers, influencing at all levels to ensure quality, consistency, efficiency, and speed to market.

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