What the calorie labelling legislation really means for food and drink brands

Many will be aware of the new calorie labelling legislation that is being rolled out across the UK this month, which sees large hospitality venues now required by law to display nutritional information on menus.

The new legislation forms part of the Government’s strategy to tackle obesity, and has been introduced to ensure people can make more informed, healthier choices when it comes to dining and drinking out, or ordering in from a takeaway. It also aims to encourage food and drink businesses to provide lower calorie options for customers. Calories must be displayed at the point of choice, so on both physical and online menus – and on delivery sites such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo.

A number of businesses have embraced the change, such as Nando’s and Domino’s, and others such as McDonald’s and KFC are already ahead of them – introducing calorie labelling over a decade ago. It’s predicted to lead to a healthier future for the industry as a whole, however many have spoken out against the new rules.

A number of sector leaders have commented that it won’t stop obesity – and fear that it will have little change on consumer eating habits, but believe it will cause a financial strain on medium-sized eateries who are now required to redevelop menus. The UKHospitality body have warned that the changes could completely ‘derail’ the restaurant industry’s post-Covid recovery plan.

Others have shared fears that the new compulsory changes could take the joy away from dining out for those with eating disorders and bad relationships with food. Diabetes campaigners on the other hand, have backed the new legislation – calling it an important step in preventing people from developing type 2, which is diet-related.

The changes won’t be going away any time soon, and Scotland are now looking at introducing a similar system. With this in mind, it’s important hospitality businesses provide the accurate nutrition detail, so consumers can make their own, well-informed decisions. If finances allow, venues are able to provide two menus – one with and one without the calorie information, which customers can see on request.

UKHospitality are set to monitor and evaluate the impact of the changes across the country, keeping a close eye on the effects. What’s most important for operators, is ensuring consumers do not feel forced to choose between low calorie options, and delicious dishes. Manchester’s Dishoom recently introduced their new menus with calories listed as required, but acted fast when a diner asked for a menu without them. The server simply scribbled all calorie details out for the customer, and received lots of praise online for doing so.

Businesses can use this ‘bedding in’ period to try new things – introducing slightly lower calorie options, that are still high quality and full of flavour, showcasing their tastiest dishes that are just a slightly healthier option. Whether it works or not, it’s going to be an interesting learning curve for the entire industry, which will hopefully support the end goal of allowing customers to make more informed, healthier choices.

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