Promotions and placements of more than 40% of the top-selling products sold in convenience stores will be restricted if the legislation currently being planned to tackle childhood obesity is introduced.

In their plans to promote healthier eating habits within children, both the Scottish and the UK governments have completed consultations directed at changing how shops can promote and sell products classified as ‘unhealthy’. 

Though the consultations are held separately, experts told betterRetailing the basis for both is very similar. 

The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) is funded by and works closely with government departments, suppliers and retailers. 

BNF nutrition scientist Stacey Lockyer told betterRetailing proposals under the government consultations include limiting both multibuy and single-unit promotions which encourage customers to buy more of a product. 

She said: “The proposals also include restricting the placement of food and drink at main selling locations in stores, such as checkouts, aisle ends and store entrances.”

According to Lockyer, the government is considering restricting products that are taxed under the sugar levy as part of its proposals. Under the levy, which was introduced last year, drinks with 5g or more sugar per 100ml are taxed. 

Products classed as ‘unhealthy’ using a Nutrient Profiling Model (NPM) are also being considered by both governments for restriction. NPM determines how healthy a product is based on the calorie, saturated fat, sugar, fibre, protein and sodium content per 100g. 

“Promotions are the lifeblood of retail,” says Colin Smith of the Scottish Wholesale Association
“Promotions are the lifeblood of retail,” says Colin Smith of the Scottish Wholesale Association

The Scottish government is also considering extending restrictions to dairy and ice cream products.

betterRetailing has applied the NPM to 500 top products sold in convenience in categories deemed to be at risk, such as biscuits, confectionery, soft drinks, snacks, breakfast goods, bakery and ice cream. 

Of the 500 products, 219 or 44% will be affected by the legislation. This includes 97% of the chocolate and sugar confectionery lines, 62% of impulse and 30% of soft drinks. 

These products include 500ml Coca-Cola, 330ml Pepsi, 400ml Yazoo, 48g Snickers, 266g McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Digestives and 80g Doritos Chilli Heatwave. 

Due to protein content, some lines that would otherwise be affected would avoid restrictions, including 510g Kellogg’s Coco Pops, 310ml Boost Protein Strawberry and 330ml Grenade Carb Killa Drink Cookies & Cream.  

Despite 14% of the 219 products being soft drinks, the British Soft Drinks Association director general, Gavin Partington, told betterRetailing the soft drinks industry is ‘leading the way in helping retailers meet changing customer preferences’. “The soft drinks industry recognises it has a role to play in helping to tackle obesity, and we have led the way in calorie and sugar reduction,” he said.

“We are the only category to have already hit Public Health England’s (PHE) calorie-reduction target of 20% by 2020. In addition, sugar intake from soft drinks fell by 29.8% between 2015 and 2019, according to Kantar Worldpanel data. 

“We hope our actions on sugar reduction, portion size and promotion of low- and no-calorie products set an example for the wider food sector, assisting retailers in the process.”

West Yorkshire retailer Ken Singh, who runs two CTNs in Pontefract, said retailers face a burden as part of the proposals. He told betterRetailing: “We’ve got confectionery and soft drinks by the till, and a lot of our sales come from these products. 

An estimated 30% of soft drinks could be hit by the proposals

“The government should tackle obesity by educating children in schools instead, and not making the livelihoods of independent retailers a lot harder.”

As part of the consultation, the government and PHE asked for the views of smaller businesses, and whether exemptions should be made based on store size and turnover.

The BNF scientist explained: “PHE recognises that the location restrictions may pose additional challenges to very small stores that do not have distinct checkout, front-of-store and aisle-end areas or where the nature of the store makes the implementation of the restrictions unworkable. 

“Therefore, as part of the consultation, they have invited stakeholder views on whether small-size stores should be out of scope of this policy and how they should be defined. Specifically, respondents were asked whether they thought micro, small, medium and large businesses should be defined by how many employees they have or in other ways such as floor size or turnover. 

“Furthermore, PHE recognises that it may be impractical for retailers that only sell one type of product to apply restrictions on promotions. PHE is analysing responses to the consultation, therefore the outcome is awaited.”

While the final plans and implementation date are yet to be announced, Costcutter marketing director Sean Russell outlined various ways in which retailers can plan ahead to offset any sales decline. 

“We’re already seeing shoppers vote with their feet and they’re going more towards products aimed at promoting healthier lifestyles, which are growth areas,” he told betterRetailing. 

“According to research, 80% to 85% of customers are trying to improve their diets. The average spend in baskets consisting of traditional confectionery is £1.40, but this increases to £1.84 with healthier alternatives. 

“For retailers, it’s all about how to identify and respond to trends to capture fresh footfall and grow sales. It’s a restriction on marketing and not sales. If a retailer is not adapting, they’ll see a decline in sales. 

“You need to understand the needs of shoppers already coming into the store. Fresh can be a sales driver and one of the biggest growth areas are freshly prepared fruit and salad pots.” 

Scottish Wholesale Association chief executive Colin Smith added that wholesalers in Scotland have been educating retail customers in preparation for the restrictions. “Promotions are the lifeblood of retail. We recognise we need to work with Westminster and Holyrood to improve the diet of the nation, but there needs to be leeway. There needs to be ways to encourage customers into stores,” he said.

“We’re telling wholesalers to educate retailers to improve their offering on healthy products, and that’s not just about having apples at checkouts. 

“It’s about being more conscious on the ranging and store plan-ograms, and bringing in more healthy sections.” 

When asked how retailers would be supported, Simply Fresh CEO Tim Chalk, KP Snacks trading director Matt Collins and a Spar spokesperson told betterRetailing they would be examining the legislation and decisions made by government closely. 

Russell added: “We’re providing retailers with a whole suite of category advice packs to help them through seasonal changeover. How do you move from vegetables in winter to fruits in the summer?

“Our Shopper First store development programme is underpinning that and using data to help our retailers understand customer spending habits and try and stay ahead of regulation. Movement on momentum towards these restrictions is inevitable.”


What are some of the products affected?

Soft drinks

Coca-Cola Classic Cherry 500ml
Coca-Cola Classic Cherry 330ml
Irn-Bru 500ml
Monster Energy 500ml
Monster Energy Pipeline Punch 500ml
Pepsi 330ml
Red Bull Energy 250ml
Ribena Blackcurrant 250ml

Sugar confectionery

Maynards Bassetts Wine Gums 165g
Haribo Giant Strawbs 180g
Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles 120g
Maoam Stripes 160g
Maynards Bassetts Midget Gems 160g
Skittles Fruits 125g
Haribo Supermix 180g

Chocolate

Smarties 100g
Galaxy Smooth Milk 360g
Galaxy Honeycomb Crisp 114g
Terry’s Chocolate Orange 157g
Cadbury Dairy Milk Oreo Mint 120g
Kinder Bueno 43g
Cadbury Wispa 24.5g
Snickers duo 83.4g

Biscuits

McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Digestives 266g
McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Hobnobs 262g
KitKat 2-Finger 5 x 20.7g
Oreo 154g
Club Orange Club 22g
Happy Shopper Bourbon Cream 400g
Blue Riband 6 x 18g
Mikado Milk Chocolate 48g