A DoH spokeswoman told FoodManufacture.co.uk today (June 27): “The government has an open mind on the [plain packaging of] tobacco question. There are certainly no plans to include any food drink or alcohol products.”
But campaigners insisted that an agreement to introduce plain packaging for tobacco could eventually be widened to include fatty and sugary foods and alcohol.
Mike Ridgway is spokesman for a group of packaging companies – including API Group, Parkside Flexibles, Chesapeake, Weidenhammer and Payne – which has pledged to fight the plain packaging plans.
Packaging hit list
The group is urging stakeholders from the packaging, print, food and drink sectors “to voice their objections before alcoholic beverages, sugary drinks or high fat foods are next on the Department of Health’s packaging hit list”.
Ridgway said:“With legislation around minimum alcohol pricing in the pipeline, high profile debates about a 'fat tax' and calls for cigarette-style health warnings on alcohol and ‘junk food’; brand owners and manufacturers have to open their eyes to the very realistic threat of ‘plain’ packaging being introduced on a wide range of consumer products.
“Indeed the Parliamentary Select Committee for Health has already called for evidence on 'plain packaging and marketing bans' in its scrutiny of the government’s alcohol strategy.”
There was “a great danger” the government would rush through legislation without proper investigation or thought, he added. This would “destroy the value created by branded goods and all the investment in creativity, design and innovation which goes with it”.
Constrained by plain packaging, there would be no way for new products or competitors to gain entry to the market or existing players to fight for market share except on a price basis, argued the campaign group. “This would have huge implications for brand owners and the advertising, design and print/packaging sectors. Ironically, all these changes would have the effect of lowering selling prices which could actually encourage levels of consumption,” said Ridgway.
It would also give the UK a reputation as a bad place to do business and extend an open invitation to the black market, he added. “Counterfeit and contraband products are already a major problem wherever brands are highly valued or market prices are inflated by high taxation.”
Tim Whitfield, director, Chesapeake Branded Packaging, said: “Branding provides many important functions for consumers and markets. It helps companies set their products apart, attract and inform consumers, communicate value and generate loyalty.
“Remove it and markets become commoditised with price reigning supreme. Quality would become moribund, driving added value out of the whole supply chain.”
The consultation period for the proposals was announced by the DoH in April and ends on July 10. The campaigners are urging interested parties to register their views via the DoH website. Click here .