Signals of consumer change as HFSS laws loom

Consumers want to keep snacking but are eager to move away from the less healthy choices they have been making.
07 September 2022
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Sally Ball

Head of Kantar Worldpanel's Nutrition Service

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New shifts in consumer mindset are beginning to play out in parallel to the deployment of legislation next month restricting how products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) can be sold. The hints of change come as brands and retailers focus on how to fulfil their legal obligations and grow their businesses amidst rising costs.

A further complication to the HFSS landscape may come from the new prime minister, Liz Truss, who has said she would scrap the HFSS initiatives. In August, she said ‘’people don’t want the government telling them what to eat.”

New Kantar research, to be unveiled in more detail later this month, shows that as consumer goods companies and retailers appoint task forces and expand their focus on HFSS, most consumers are unaware of the proposed changes and what they might mean for them.

This lack of awareness is expected to mean retailers will need to aggressively re-educate consumers on navigating their physical stores as HFSS items are moved from high-profile locations such as gondola ends and checkouts. Some retailers have already begun these efforts with early HFSS compliance. Further complication is added as inflationary pressures drive consumers to try store formats outside their normal repertoire.

Kantar also expects this need to re-educate shoppers will bring opportunities to guide consumers to new products, particularly when it comes to snacking where the mindsets of some consumers is shifting away from their traditional shopping habits in HFSS categories.

Earlier this year, Kantar identified a three-step framework for consumer goods brands and retailers to follow in the context of the HFSS legislation. The three areas of focus were Mindset, Marketing, and Mission. The latest data captured by Kantar shows consumers are planning changes along similar lines and that these shifts will open them up to new marketing experiences.

On the mindset front, British consumers tell Kantar they are increasingly looking for healthier snacking alternatives and recognise that they’re unlikely to switch out of snacking in favour of fresh food options such as fruit and vegetables.

“We’re seeing clear signals from meaningfully large numbers of consumers. They want to keep snacking but are eager to move away from the less healthy choices they have been making. This is good news for brands who have been working hard in this area and sends a clear message to retailers who need to do all they can to help them make the purchases they’re seeking,” said Sally Ball, Head of Kantar Worldpanel’s Nutrition Service.

But there is also a chance the expected changes in buying habits and the changes required by the HFSS legislation are viewed through business lenses that lack sufficient scope.

“We see lots of companies appointing HFSS teams to tackle everything from new product development to marketing, but there’s a risk they lose sight of the total shopping experience and operate in what I’d call an ‘HFSS vacuum’.”

“In the current economic climate, we’re seeing ongoing shifts in what goes into a grocery basket, and that extends well beyond HFSS categories. Understanding the entire basket and the spending intentions alongside that ever-changing basket is at a critical juncture,” Ball said.

Food and drinks categories impacted by the new legislation include soft drinks, breakfast cereal, ice cream and ready meals. Further restrictions are scheduled to rollout in 2023.


Join Kantar on September 28 in London to hear from industry leaders and for more details of our latest HFSS research. Register now.

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