Fry made the comments after Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside warned Government that regulation to reduce the fat, salt and sugar content of foods targeting larger out-of-home (OOH) companies risked “squeezing the balloon” in favour of independent operators, which made up over half the market.
“Mr Whiteside is quite right,” Fry, who is also expert advisory team member to Action on Sugar, told Food Manufacture. “A level playing field across industry is essential, but Government has historically always ducked its introduction. Its attempt to bring industry on board, the Responsibility Deal, failed because it wasn’t mandatory for industry to keep its reformulation pledges. The 2020 target for sugar reduction will probably fail for the same reason.
Success of the Levy
“The recent sugary drinks industry levy has worked because no-one would escape the levy if they didn’t drastically reformulate. Everyone got the message and it must be a model for foodstuffs in the coming years.”
Speaking at the Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum, Whiteside said “healthier” food made up 25% of Greggs sales, but the business accounted for less than 2% of the OOH market. “Over half the [OOH] market is independents,” he said. “We’ve got to deal with that end of the market, otherwise it’s not a level playing field.”
Level the playing field
Dominic Watkins, partner at law firm DWF, agreed: “It would be totally illogical if the 20% calorie reductions – or any other similar policy – did not apply to 50% of the sales on the market merely because the manufacturer was of a certain size.”
It emerged last month that Public Health England had ditched plans to measure sugar reduction in the OOH sector based on the types of junk food consumers ate most. The “sales-weighted average” for reporting on progress will be replaced with a simple average not linked to sales.