In a bid to encourage healthier shopping and eating habits, last year’s introduction of High-Fat, Salt, and Sugar (HFSS) regulations have been a major focal point in the retail industry. One year on, we’re exploring how this change has impacted retailers and consumers despite leading non-HFSS-compliant brands reporting average sales hikes of 27%.*
What is HFSS?
Prior to the government stepping in to introduce restrictions, the retail industry was often misaligned with existing government healthy eating guidelines, subsequently making it harder for families to make healthier choices when shopping.
This led to the development of regulations for restrictions on the promotions and placement of certain foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt or, sugar (HFSS).
Following consultations in 2019, the government introduced legislation to “restrict the promotion of HFSS products by volume price (for example, ‘buy one get one free’) and location, both online and in-store in England.”
HFSS is also known as less healthy food and drink and is referred to as such in the nutrient profiling technical guidance 2011. The restriction of HFSS products by location came into force on 1 October 2022 and the restriction by volume price will be effective from 1 October 2025.
How is HFSS regulated?
HFSS regulations have evolved substantially since the initial consultation in 2019. Various countries, including the UK, have introduced measures to tackle the prevalence and promotion of unhealthy food and drinks, aiming to restrict the marketing, advertising, and sale of HFSS products to consumers.
The UK’s HFSS advertising ban, which has been delayed from a 2023 enforcement to October 2025, has compelled retailers and manufacturers to reevaluate their product offerings and marketing strategies. This shift has led to a wave of product reformulation, with many brands working to reduce the HFSS content in their products to comply with regulations rather than face promotional restrictions.
Are brands and retailers noticing the impact?
With retailers being forced to reimagine their in-store layouts, product placements, and promotional strategies, brands have also had to adapt to the restrictions to maintain growth.
Despite HFSS regulations and price inflation, sales of chocolate saw an additional £50 million over the past year along with chilled desserts boasting a 75% sales hike since the laws came into effect.
Whilst it’s clear to see these key impulse purchase zones hosting healthier options such as snack bars, these items have seen no benefit from the regulations, with a less than 1% increase in sales.
Commercial Director at Reapp, James Lamplugh, reports that “our latest in-depth analysis shows flavour, taste, and experience unequivocally remain the top factors in understanding what drives consumer trends.
“Brands have demonstrated real skill in adapting to legislation to deliver growth. Retailers too have been savvy with their promotion to retain customer loyalty.
“Not only this, with inflation and the cost-of-living crisis being huge factors in our lives, consumers found themselves staying at home more, driving the ‘Big Night In’ trend where we see shoppers treating themselves to little luxuries such as chocolate and confectionery.”
How can we help?
Whilst HFSS regulations are reshaping the classic supermarket layout, here at Harrison our product development team design innovative display solutions and store fixtures designed to promote healthier product options as well as supporting the promotion of non-HFSS-compliant products and brands.
So, are you a retailer looking to increase impulse sales of HFSS-compliant products? Or a non-HFSS-compliant brand struggling to get noticed in-aisle?