Non-HFSS legislation - what we've seen so far


Suppose you’re in the business of food for retail. In that case, a lot of your time recently will have been taken up discussing the impact of the government’s non-HFSS legislation, restricting the promotion of products high in fat, sugar, or salt by location and volume price. These new regulations come into force on 1st October.

As businesses dealing in the manufacturing of food or like us as an agency dealing with packaging, we get it and its rules. But what are the implications for retailers and consumers… What will supermarkets look like in the post-HFSS?

The restrictions on where HFSS products can be displayed represent the most significant single intentional change to supermarket operations and economics in living memory. Much time and money have been devoted to adapting to these changes.

Essentially, it’s simple: those non-compliant HFSS products, those deemed high in fat, sugar, or salt, are no longer allowed at checkouts. Many retailers removed confectionery, snacks, and soft drinks from checkouts years ago; for them, it’s not a significant issue. However, for others that still rely on checkouts for impulse sales, efforts have been underway to replace the offending products with categories such as healthier snacks, water, health & beauty, magazines, gift cards, and even toys.

It’s not just impulse purchases; how about what to do with single confectionery, those single bars that quickly get dropped into the basket without a second thought. Traditionally single bars have been displayed on gondola ends close to checkouts. Many have chosen to rehome confectionery in food-to-go, a natural switch, given that single confectionery can often be a component of meal deals. In terms of what replaces single confectionery, there appear to be various strategies at play. Most have gone with healthier snacks and lots of chewing gum.

Some retailers, such as Morrisons, think differently with some very striking Vape-branded gondola ends. This is a high-growth category, and by locating it adjacent to checkouts, the apparent hope is that shrinkage is minimised while offering a much more extensive range than the traditional tobacco gantry would be feasible.

So, we’ve successfully moved HFSS items away from the till points, but how to activate demand for HFSS categories in the aisle? The most popular tactic is to use the final bay in each aisle to house eye-catching promotions. But some appear to be taking a more subtle approach of using bays further into the aisles and still creating high visibility through colourful barkers, fins and other point-of-sale materials. Other trials include digital signage, brand blocking in categories such as crisps and chocolate, and the implementation of branded fixtures by the big confectionery brands.

With HFSS promotions disappearing from gondola ends, some retailers simply use more gondola end space for core ranges in categories such as eggs, pulses, ingredients, nuts, sauces and tinned fruit & veg. There’s the adoption of digital screens on gondola ends in larger Tesco stores, which are being very well used by ambient grocery, beer, and spirits brands to showcase new products and Clubcard promotions. Sainsbury’s is taking a more radical approach in some of its stores, getting rid of shelving altogether and instead displaying point-of-sale material – while in other instances, it has used ends to showcase its private label range as well healthier snacking brands.

Of course, many gondola ends will simply be used to display promotions from non-HFSS brands and categories. The big winners will be beers, wines, and spirits, with many stores seeing a marked increase in ends devoted to this category.

With Halloween and Christmas coming into stores now, it’s going to be interesting to see how this manifests itself on the shop floor.

HFSS legislation is unlikely to go away. As a result, we are likely to see some exciting adaptions to store layouts, maybe some “bending” of rules, a lot of trial and error, and some bewildered lost shoppers in the early days!

* Source material: the author’s own observations,,,

Wow Me Design is the Cheltenham-based brand positioning agency helping brands people want. If you need help navigating HFSS legislation we would love you to get in touch at

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