Restricting advertisements of HFSS food and drink

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As discussed in our February newsletter, Government intends to introduce legislation to restrict promotions of products high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) in England by location and by price in retail settings (such as supermarkets and other shops) and in the out of home sector (such as restaurants, coffee shops, fast food outlets), as well as in any establishment in which food and drink is prepared and sold so that it is ready for consumption by the final consumer.

The aim of the policy is to reduce overconsumption of HFSS products that contribute to children being overweight and obese through: a) restricting volume based types of price promotions of pre-packaged HFSS food and drink products that specifically encourage overconsumption, such as multi-buy offers (e.g. buy one get one free) and free refills of sugary soft drinks; and b) restricting the placement of all HFSS food and drink products (whether pre-packaged or non-pre-packaged) at key selling locations such as store entrances, checkouts and aisle ends which can lead to impulse purchases of HFSS products.

Government also wants to shift the balance of promotions towards healthier options and maximise the availability of healthier products that are offered on promotion, to make it easier for parents to make healthier choices when shopping for their families.

Government intends to lay secondary legislation restricting price and location promotions of HFSS food and drink items in England in late 2019.

In addition, Government is running a second consultation which aims to gather views on how it can reduce children’s exposure to HFSS advertising, again to reduce children’s overconsumption of these products. Government is exploring how to reduce children’s exposure to advertising for HFSS products on TV and online by introducing further advertising restrictions.

The consultation seeks views on options across broadcast and online media in order to reduce children’s exposure to HFSS advertising. The aim is that any future restrictions are proportionate, and targeted to the products of most concern to childhood obesity.

The consultation sets out the following options. In relation to television advertising:

  • Option 1 – introduce a 9:00 p.m. – 5:30 a.m. “watershed” on broadcast TV.
  • Option 2 – a ladder of advertising restrictions to determine what products can and cannot be advertised between 5:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. This would be to reward companies that are reformulating their products or already have healthier products on the market, by giving them advertising freedoms.
  • Option 3 – no additional advertising restrictions would be introduced.

In relation to online advertising:

  • Option 1 – introduce a 9:00 p.m. – 5:30 a.m. “watershed” online.
  • Option 2 – strengthen current targeting restrictions.
  • Option 3 – a mixed option whereby different online sub-sectors are treated differently.

WM Comment

The consultation closed on 10 June 2019 and industry feedback seems to be that there will be a ‘watershed’ approach whereby HFSS products will not be allowed to be advertised on television (and possibly online) between 5:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. There is also likely to be a ban on using characters and celebrities that appeal to children. We will keep you updated.