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The Government’s HFSS Legislation – What’s it all about?

Posted by Joe Taylor on
The Government’s HFSS Legislation – What’s it all about?

Whether you’re a food & drink geek (like us) or not you have probably heard about the Governments plan to start putting restrictions in place on the sale and promotion of less healthy foods & drinks.  After delays (and some last minute changes) this legislation will hit supermarket shelves on the 1st October 2022 (barring a ridiculous last minute cancellation from Liz Truss & co – but surely they wouldn’t do that at this point after countless amounts of time and money have been spent preparing for it…right….).

It’s the biggest change in UK food & drink for decades so we thought we’d put together this little blog to give our perspective on what the changes mean and what to expect from October when doing your weekly shop.

Part 1: What the heck does HFSS mean?

Everyone loves an acronym so for us food & drink insiders we’re referring to this legislation quite simply as ‘HFSS’.  But the government like to refer to it by its official title the ‘Food (Promotion & Placement) Regulations 2021’.  Either way defining food & drink that is HFSS (High in Fat, Salt or Sugar) is our starting point so lets begin shall we…

The story begins back in 2004-05 when the Food Standards Agency (a government department responsible for protecting public health in relation to food & drink) developed a nutrient profiling model to provide Ofcom (the UK’s broadcasting regulator) with guidelines that allowed them to restrict the advertising of less healthy food & drink to children.

The model in effect uses a simple formula where foods get points for scoring highly on naughty stuff (sugar, salt, fat etc) and get points deducted for ‘good’ stuff (fibre, protein, being natural etc).  What's that?  You'd like a link to the official government legislation paper... ok then - <b>The Food (Promotion and Placement) Regulations 2021</b>

It’s based on the pretty simple principle that we should be eating more of the things that give us the nutrition our bodies need, and less of the empty calories we’re consuming.

Under the formula things like chocolate and crisps don’t do too well as you might guess and that means their promotion in supermarkets and advertising will be restricted as a result.

Part 2: What changes are being made and why?

These new rules are coming about because the government has noticed that we’re all getting a bit tubby which isn’t great for our day to day health, isn’t great for our NHS and, as sadly demonstrated by COVID-19, ultimately it can reduce life expectancy.  Ok that’s the depressing bit out of the way, what are we going to do about it? 

Well government consultations have shown that volume promotions and placement in prominent store locations (by the till, on the end of supermarket aisles) lead us to buy more of these naughty foods than we would under normal circumstances.

Sooooo the HFSS legislation draws a line and says that foods higher in fat, salt and sugar will not be allowed to be sold in these locations.  They’re not banned from stores, you can still grab you chocolate fix whilst shopping which is all good.  You just won’t be bombarded by walls of chocolate on the end of every aisle and big shipper displays of chocolate by the store entrance an till points.  Hopefully instead you’ll see more nutritious (but still delicious!) snacks promoted in stores so that you’re grabbing that all important nutrition your body needs when making a purchase.

Part 3: Nuts & The HFSS Legislation

As if all the above weren’t confusing enough there are some ‘grey’ areas and exemptions within the HFSS legislation that the industry are having to wrestle with too.

Happily nuts are one of the foods that are exempt from the HFSS legislation.  This is a recognition that nuts are natural source of heart-healthy fats, fibre, protein and a bunch of micro nutrients too.

Studies are running constantly helping us better understand the positive links between consuming nuts and our physical and even mental wellness.  The only time this won’t apply is to nuts that are coated in chocolate that of course need to be enjoyed in moderation.

So HFSS actually represents a wonderful opportunity for us all to start enjoying snacking on nuts more regularly because nuts now represent the largest type of savoury snack that meets the rules for supermarkets.

And of course that means we’re going to be super busy at Real Handful because not only are more people turning to nut snacks but they’re also recognising the benefit of nut snacks that use better ingredients like hi-oleic nuts (more heart healthy fats) and nuts that are better processed – like ours which we oven bake rather than fry or roast in oil.

So we’re going to be helping the supermarkets and other stores in the months to come with our award winning range of baked nuts and mixes.  But we also know that lots of people restrict how often they snack on nuts because they are worried about consuming too many calories – and that’s where you’ll see our delicious Air Nuts range popping up in more places.  They’re the perfect nutty alternative to crisps with a crisp bite and being more than 60% lighter than regular nuts because of their unique aeration process.

Viva the nut revolution and happy (healthy) snacking to all of you!

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