How to keep your communications strategy healthy in the lead up to the HFSS promotion ban

From October this year, promotions of unhealthy foods and drinks in England will be significantly restricted by the Government.

Retailers classed as medium or large – meaning they have 50 employees or more – will be required to phase out all multi-buy promotions of foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) – such as ‘buy one get one free’ or ‘3 for 2’ offers.

From banning TV adverts and deals published in magazines, to prohibiting in-store signage and eye-catching offers at the checkout, the ban on unhealthy multi-buy promotions could have a profound impact on retailers, especially supermarkets.

For decades, retailers have benefited from attention-grabbing deals which entice people to buy products on the basis that they are good value for money, thus driving sales.  What’s more, the ban has come at a time when people are looking to save money now more than ever, with the cost of living crisis in the UK deepening. In fact, UK inflation is at it’s highest rate since 1992 and is continuing to soar.

This month, the UK’s biggest supermarket, Tesco, have warned of “significant uncertainties” weighing on the business, including whether consumer behaviour could change as the nation copes with the cost inflation.

However, it won’t just impact retailers, but also confectionary manufacturers such as Nestle, Unilever, and Coca-Cola who derive most of their sales from HFSS products. They too might see a change of sales as retailers turn towards healthier products when the new law comes into force.

Alongside this, the cafe and restaurant industry will also be impacted, as refillable sugary soft drinks which are available at the likes of Nandos will no longer be allowed from October 2022 – yet another significant change following the implementation of mandatory calorie labelling on menus in a bid to combat obesity.

Some, however, have argued that consumer behaviour may not change regardless of new laws and changes in unhealthy food promotions. This can be likened to the robust restrictions on cigarette promotion in the UK, as teenagers are continuing to take up smoking despite anti-smoking campaigns and graphic images on packets to deter existing and potential smokers.

So, how can retailers and brands in this space adapt their communications strategy to mitigate the impact?

  • Take the time to educate:

It’s not as simple as determining what is unhealthy or healthy in our diets and encouraging people to completely stop consuming ‘unhealthy’ foods – the ban has instead been implemented to help people consumer HFSS products in moderation. Because of this, there is an opportunity for brands in this space to educate consumers as to how they can enjoy still enjoy their favourite foods responsibly whilst also maintaining a healthy diet. A great communications strategy can support this by using brand channels, influencers and the media to share authentic, educational content that drills into the topic.

  • Win the hearts & minds of your consumer:

Although promotions are a brilliant sales tool, another way to reach your target consumer is through a powerful brand-focused communications strategy that will build brand love within the desired audiences.

Going beyond product and sharing more of the brands personality and purpose with consumers is a brilliant way to get consumers to consider buying a new product, even if they don’t see it on offer.

A great example of this is Tony’s Chocolonely’s mission to make their chocolate 100% slave free. This ethical and purpose driven stance not only sets the brand apart in a crowded category but has also create a powerful story that can be shared via all brand channels, including the media.

  • Get creative:

Finally, now is the time to be truly creative in your communications in order to grab the consumer attention.

Creativity can take many forms, but essentially, it’s about developing a strategy that will inspire and engage your consumers beyond simple discounts and promotions.

If you’re a food or drink brand looking for a PR strategy in the lead up to the HFSS ban, get in touch today.

Get in touch with the team