A government crackdown on the promotion and placement of unhealthy food and drink from April 2022 could affect up to 10,000 small stores in England.

Last month, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) revealed draft legislation to restrict sales of high-fat, -salt and -sugar (HFSS) lines in stores 2,000sq ft and larger, or with 50 or more staff, or any franchise or symbol group store.

For these stores, the law would ban value-added promotions such as two-for-one and the placement of products on aisle ends, entrance areas and within two metres of a checkout.

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Independent stores below 2,000sq ft operating under their own brand would be exempt, but are still likely to be affected by associated product and promotions changes by suppliers and wholesalers.

DHSC said prohibited products would be based on Public Health England’s Nutrient Profiling Model. RN analysis in 2019 of the model found more than 40% of the top 500 bestselling lines in independent convenience stores could be impacted. These included Irn-Bru, McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Digestives and Kinder Bueno.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said 5,000 to 10,000 convenience stores would be affected and called for an exemption for all sites under 3,000sq ft. Asked how stores could remerchandise in preparation, retail expert David Gilroy said: “A suitable alternative for the till will be products such as snack and protein bars.

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“There’s still a major range of suitable impulse products and the consumer trend has been shifting to healthier eating.”

However, he said consumer habits would not change overnight due to legislative changes. “Despite the soft drinks sugar levy, there was still demand for non-reformulated drinks,” he said.

Convenience expert Scott Annan said similar HFSS restrictions had been passed in South Korea, Japan and Singapore. He told betterRetailing: “Many retailers I’ve worked with have shown only one in five purchases are impulse.

Adapting to the sugar tax

“In Asia, they focused more on fresh food and the sales of chocolate bars are much lower.

“The retailers who focus on substituting confectionery at their tills with fresh can make more money at higher margins.

“Many successful retailers have moved confectionery to the middle aisles surrounded by fresh and customers will still pick them up.”

Bobby’s national sales manager John Lucas said counter screens had already restricted till impulse rangings, while Paul Jordon, managing director of shopfitters Jordon Group, said it would fuel the growing trend of tills tailored to non-confectionery categories, such as vaping.

A consultation on the ban, which could see the draft legislation amended, closes on 22 February.

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