If you’ve been shopping at a supermarket recently, you might have noticed some changes. The usual snacks and sugary sweets that we’re used to seeing at multiple spots throughout the stores have been reduced.
In a bid to tackle the country’s obesity issue, the UK government has put new legislation in place that bans the display of HFSS (high in fat, salt, and sugar) items in certain locations in a shop, such as entrances, aisle ends, and checkouts. For online food shops, the same rule will apply to high-traffic spots on the website.
But how has the new rule been met by both businesses and consumers, and what can supermarkets do to adapt to the changes?
What are the new rules?
The new rules came into force on October 1, and have since attracted the attention of supermarket managers, employers, and consumers alike.
As customers we have got into the habit of buying last-minute snacks – which are usually processed foods – while strolling through the aisles or when we reach the checkout. The government’s goal is to reduce those mindless, impulsive purchases and help break bad habits.
According to the Health Survey for England 2019, around 28% of English adults are obese (BMI>30) and 36.2% are overweight but not obese. Processed foods that contain HFSS (high in fat, salt, and sugar) contribute to the obesity issue in England.
While these foods can be consumed in moderation, their regular consumption can increase the risk of underlying chronic inflammation and developing certain diseases, such as fatty liver disease. The government sees the ban on certain locations where these products can be displayed in supermarkets as a viable solution for combatting obesity.
How ready are businesses?
While the ban is geared towards making a positive change in the decisions we as consumers make, there is resistance from the supermarket industry in implementing the new rules.
A study by global standards organisation GS1 UK shows that 66% of businesses and 68% of consumers agree that precautions should be taken to tackle Brits’ unhealthy eating habits and obesity issue.
But what is halting them from fully embracing the change is fears around the shift in consumers’ behaviours. Buying HFSS foods is an integral part of the shopping behaviour of Brits, and the new legislation could change that. In fact, 51% of the survey respondents said they would be less likely to purchase HFSS products if they were less visible in the shop.
Businesses are concerned that this can impact sales and revenue and are also hesitant about implementing the new changes. According to the GS1 UK survey, more than 40% of business owners and managers feel unprepared for the shift. Not only that, but another research shows that only a third of businesses have audited their products ahead of the legislation, and that 20% of businesses are not even aware of the new law. Nevertheless, failing to comply with the new rules can lead to penalties.
Storage containers to keep supply deals
But what can businesses do in order to navigate the new changes and implement the legislation without hurting their business and by promoting healthy eating habits in Britain?
Tackling the limited space for displaying HFSS items points to the fact that businesses will need additional storage space for those items they are unable to display at the time. Although they are only able to showcase a certain amount of HFSS products, that wouldn’t change their supply behaviours.
Buying goods to sell in bulk is cheaper for businesses than frequent small purchases. They have most likely arranged deals with their suppliers to account for enough stock to fill the shelves. Cutting down the stock they purchase might have an additional toll on their expenses, and therefore isn’t a viable solution for all.
But, using storage containers can help businesses keep their good deals with suppliers while also complying with the new legislation. This is a sure way to get prepared in advance without having to make massive budget sacrifices. There are many storage containers for hire that come in various sizes to fit your business’ needs and are a great way to keep everything organised. This will ensure the smooth operations of your business and will allow for minimum disruptions.
Implementing data and technology
Technology and data play a big part in helping optimise businesses’ operations. It can be used to track consumer behaviour, automate processes, and also to help businesses navigate the complexities of the new law. In fact, 41% of respondents in a survey by AI nutrition technology company Spoon Guru believe that technology can aid businesses in managing the new regulations.
Technology that monitors the HFSS scores of products and communicates the information with the supermarket managers and owners is what they need. This will ensure that businesses are categorising products properly and are staying up to date with the recent legislations.
The ban on where HFSS products can be displayed is just one of the tools that the government is using in their efforts to combat obesity. Bans on multibuy deals on unhealthy foods and drinks, junk food adverts on TV before 9pm and paid online ads are also in the pipeline.
Although the new legislation is causing friction in the supply chain and the customer journey, its mission is to reduce obesity, and hopefully in time, healthier snack options will be put in the spots where HFSS items were previously displayed.