Under the new guidelines, retailers would be prevented from offering volume-based price promotions on HFSS products, such as buy-one-get-one-free offers and free refills on sugary soft drinks.
Tim Rycroft, FDF chief operating officer, accused the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) of being out of touch with economic realities and the rest of Government, which is preoccupied in preventing a no-deal Brexit.
“This consultation – already late – should have waited until the uncertainty we face is resolved,” said Rycroft. “What’s more, this proposed plan is both wrong-headed and muddled. A promotions ban would make shopping more expensive and reduce choice.”
Limit consumers’ choice
Rycroft claimed restrictions on promotions would limit consumers’ choice, preventing new products from winning space on supermarket shelves. It would also make it harder for start-ups to break into the market.
“Promotions also play a big role in making food more affordable,” Rycroft added. “Government data shows that, on average, people would have to spend £634 a year more for the same food if promotions were banned.”
The new rules would also undermine the work the industry has already done to reformulate products to reduce sugars, calories and fat, claimed Rycroft. A blanket ban on HFSS food and drink would also prevent retailers from promoting reformulated products over their unhealthier alternatives.
‘Bizarre and contradictory’
“But that’s what the Government wants to do,” Rycroft concluded. “This is a bizarre and contradictory public health policy.”
The DHSC consultation into plans to restrict promotions of HFSS food and drink products is open to views from industry until 6 April.
The announcement of the Government’s consultation into promotions on food and drink products comes less than a week after the Scottish Government launched a similar campaign of its own.
FDF Scotland criticised the consultation, warning that a restriction on promotions would lower competitiveness, push smaller companies out of business and result in job losses.
Chief executive David Thomson said: “For just one of our members, these types of restrictions would reduce their sales by up to £1m per year and will likely result in major redundancies.”