Shops to face restrictions on HFSS food promotions from April 2022

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The government on Monday said it will ban “buy one get one free” promotions for food high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) and free refills of sugary soft drinks in restaurants from April 2022.

The latest measures in the plan to tackle obesity will also restrict where in a store promotions on such products can be advertised, and unhealthy promotions will not be allowed at checkouts, shop entrances or at the ends of aisles.

“We are restricting promotions and introducing a range of measures to make sure the healthy choice is the easy choice. Creating an environment which helps everyone eat healthier foods more regularly is crucial to improving the health of the nation,” public health minister Jo Churchill said.

The majority of convenience stores which are either under 2,000 square feet in size or run by a business with fewer than 50 full time equivalent employees are exempted from the measures. However, franchise or symbol group stores deemed to be part of the larger brand owner business are not covered in exemptions.

Britain first proposed restricting “buy one get one free” deals on junk food in July, and also announced measures such as banning TV and online adverts for junk food before 9.00 p.m.

Last month the government went further and proposed a total ban on online advertising of unhealthy food.

The government says obesity is one of Britain’s biggest long-term public health problems with almost two-thirds of adults in England overweight and one in three children leaving primary school overweight or obese.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has, however, warned that restrictions within a minority of convenience stores in England will have a significant impact on more than one in five of England’s local shops.

While welcoming the exemption of small stores, James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said between 5,000 and 10,000 convenience stores will still be affected by the measures, depending on the definition used for franchises.

“We are concerned that the government’s consultation response does not show an understanding of the independence of symbol group retailers,” he said. “Retailers are now facing difficult decisions on how to lay out their stores, despite little evidence that these restrictions will be effective.”

“Even for the majority of convenience stores that will thankfully be exempted from location restrictions, there will be changes to the way that promotions are configured by them, their wholesalers and manufacturers. We are working to clarify exactly which mechanisms will be outlawed beyond the oft-quoted ‘buy one get one free’ deals that are actually very rarely used in our sector.”

The products that cannot be promoted or located in certain parts of the store are based on Public Health England’s Nutrient Profiling Model and will be confirmed shortly.