Reactions to the upcoming implementation of the HFSS legislation

In December 2020, the government announced their plans to implement the HFSS legislation, whereby products high in fats, sugars, and salt would be restricted in terms of in-store and e-commerce activation and promotional activity. The announcement has come at a time when the UK is seeing record numbers of obesity across the population, showing a clear indication that action needs to be taken.

The legislation, now set to be enforced from October 2022, will stop promotions such as multibuy deals like ‘buy one get one free’ and ‘3 for the price of 2’, on such products in an attempt to discourage excessive consumption of HFSS foods. It will also prevent the placement of these products on gondola ends, a marketing tactic often adopted to boost sales (read our Gondola End blog for more detail).

Product innovation:

These restrictions are likely to transform the entire landscape of the supermarket setting and can be seen as a serious obstacle to hundreds of affected brands. However, over the last few months we’ve witnessed innovation from forward-thinking industry leaders who are taking advantage of the opportunity the legislation will provide, and the ‘gap in the market’ it will leave to be filled.

Graze’s previous CEO, Anthony Fletcher, is an example of one such innovator, who, back in August unveiled the world’s first non-HFSS doughnut with his doughnut brand Urban Legends. The product is achieved by setting them with steam rather than frying them before a microlayer of fat is deposited on them to mimic the taste and texture of fried doughnuts. The doughnuts have received rave reviews and demonstrate the possibilities around innovating much-loved treats into healthier alternatives that side-step the HFSS legislation.

Other examples of reactive action have been seen from KIND with their new almond butter breakfast bar, along with multiple crisp innovations such as ‘Better for you’ crisps from Simply Roasted, and products from Mindful Snacker, a start-up crisp brand that makes its crisps with a proprietary process involving three different ovens to remove moisture from potatoes before seasoning and bagging.

Alongside actions we already see being taken, other longstanding brands are making big plans for the future in reaction to the legislation, such as Kellogg’s, which aim to cut the salt and sugar content in their cereals in order to achieve non-HFSS status by the end of 2022.

Brand communication:

Despite product and ingredient innovation, HFSS products are by no means going to disappear, and some brands are not in a position where it is attainable to achieve non-HFSS status. We are therefore likely to see a shift in the way many brands communicate with consumers, with less focus on short term sales activations, and instead more focus on long term brand building in comms in an attempt to make more meaningful emotional connections with consumers.

Finn Comms have identified some brands that have previously taken this stance, for example, Red Bull. Rather than activations explicitly portraying products, the brand focuses on emotions and activities associated with the brand, demonstrated through its sponsorship of extreme sports and creative events, such as the infamous moon jump.

Similarly, the brand Tony’s Chocolonely has opted to push their commitment to Fairtrade and supporting less economically developed countries through their brand comms, thus instead placing focus on a separate social issue.


These examples of product innovation and brand communication demonstrate the potential of a positive revitalised approach to the way we all view and consume food. With increased transparency and education about what we’re putting into our bodies, and less opportunity for what we behavioural psychologists term ‘sludge’, we appear to be heading for a more balanced, and healthier future, both physically and psychologically.

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Written by Holly Adams, Research Manager at Spark Emotions.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Holly via email or connect with her on LinkedIn

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