What’s going on with HFSS/Nutrient Profiling in 2021?

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What is Nutrient Profiling / HFSS?

HFSS stands for high in fat, sugar or salt.

Why is it such a hot topic in 2021?

In 2022, in an attempt to slow down the spread of obesity, the UK Government intends to act against HFSS foods.

The Advertising Standards Agency has, for some time, had rules in place that restrict the advertising of HFSS products to children.  Now, new rules are going to be put in place to attempt to reduce the number of HFSS items being sold.

How can I tell if a product is HFSS?

NutriCalc will work out the score for your product for you. 

The model awards points for the amounts of saturates, sugars, salt and energy (calories) in the product.  Then it subtracts points for the quantities of fibre, protein (sometimes) and also the content of fruit, vegetables and nuts.  This gives a final score.

  • If a food scores four points or more, it’s ‘less healthy’. 
  • If a drink scores one point or more, it’s also ‘less healthy’.

Can this calculation be automated?

The NutriCalc Premium Plan will calculate the HFSS points for your product, as well of course as nutrition, ingredient listing, allergens and much, much more.

Didn’t you say F stood for fat?  Doesn’t fat count?

Err, no, not directly, only saturated fat.  So if your product contains milk fat, palm oil or coconut oil, it won’t do as well as one containing rapeseed, sunflower or olive oil.

You could say that if your product contains a lot of fat, then the energy will be pretty high as well.

What is the Government going to do?

A document published after the 2021 Queen’s Speech said:

“The Government will restrict the promotions on high fat, salt and sugar food and drinks in retailers from April 2022. The Health and Care Bill will include measures to ban junk food adverts pre-9pm watershed on TV and for a total ban online.”

Note the use of the word ‘junk’!

So, promotions of HFSS foods and drinks will not be allowed.  In practice this will include:

  • Not displaying HFSS items at the entrance to a store, at the end of aisles or at the checkout
  • A ban on ‘buy one get one free’ and similar promotions intended to increase sales volume
  • No free refills of sugary soft drinks when eating out

This only applies to larger stores, over 2000 square feet (which is about 15 yards square).  Your corner shop won’t be affected.

And advertising will be limited:  none online and only after 9 pm on television.

Which foods are affected?

A Government document states:

“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”.

It may be difficult for manufacturers of some products to decide whether they are included or not.

So, this is now the official definition of ‘junk’ food (and drinks)?

You might think that, but we couldn’t possibly comment!

Will it work? Will it reduce obesity?

Only time will tell, but the general consensus seems to be that, as with previous government initiatives in this area, it will have little significant effect.  People will still be able to buy and eat what they like, it will just cost more. 

And there are many factors involved in becoming overweight, of which choice of foods is only a small part.

Judging the success or otherwise of the initiative will need to be based upon current data on weight, obesity and health compared with the picture in a few years’ time.

How will this affect food manufacturers?

Some will benefit.  There will presumably still be lots of promotions in store, but they will be non-HFSS defined products.

Some manufacturers will be able to reformulate skilfully to bring some of their products outside of the HFSS definition.

For others, there is the potential for lost sales.  No doubt the strong brands will shine through as always.

Predictably, a lot of people in the food industry are not happy about this initiative.


Nutrient Profiling Tool 

Queen’s Speech Briefing Document

Promotions of Unhealthy Foods Restricted from April 2022

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