UK government will begin crackdown on unhealthy retail promotions in 2022

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The UK's Department of Health and Social Care on Monday announced it will put restrictions on retailers attempting to promote food and drinks that are high in fat, sugar and salt beginning in April 2022.

Supermarkets and other stores with more than 50 employees will be barred from pushing "buy one, get one" deals and similar multibuy promotions that encourage unhealthy choices to consumers. 

"We know families want to be presented with healthier choices," Public Health Minister Jo Churchill said. "This is why 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."

The decision will pose an interesting dilemma for retailers and consumers. Stores will have to find new ways of attracting shoppers and enticing them to buy more at checkouts, and consumers likely will need to find new ways of cost savings. 

Retailers also will not be allowed to offer promotions on unhealthy products in certain locations, especially those in high traffic areas such as entrances and checkouts. They also must avoid enticing online shoppers with these deals too.

The government is using guidelines from the 2004-2005 Nutrient Profiling Model to determine items that are high in fat, sugar or salt. They include products that typically might be promoted toward children.

It did note that there are are opportunities for retailers to promote other items in similar ways - as long as they meet the healthier product criteria.

According to statistics, nearly two-thirds of adults in England are overweight and one-third of children who leave primarily school are either overweight or obese. The UK government is intent on trying to reverse those numbers.

The government's new plan's restrictions also include: 

  • free refills of sugary soft drinks will be prohibited in the eating-out sector
  • the location restrictions will only apply to stores over 2,000 square feet - specialist retailers, such as chocolate shops, are exempt from the location restrictions
  • prepacked food and drink in the following categories will be restricted if they are considered HFSS: soft drinks, cakes, chocolate confectionery, sugar confectionery, ice cream, morning goods (for example, pastries), puddings, sweet biscuits, breakfast cereals, yogurts, milk-based drinks with added sugar, juice-based drinks with added sugar, pizza, ready meals, meal centres, including breaded and battered products, crisps and savoury snacks, chips and similar potato products.
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