Posted: 17/05/2019

Government plans to restrict “unhealthy” impulse purchases could hit indies

Fine food retailers have condemned government proposals to crack down on the prominent placing of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products – if small outlets are lumped together with supermarkets.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is especially concerned with the locations of HFSS items at key selling locations, including store entrances, checkouts and aisle ends.

But several retailers have told FFD they are concerned that a rule aimed at larger retailers could cripple delis and farm shops.

The DHSC claims that this practice can lead to “pester power and impulse purchases”, in a document outlining its Consultation on restricting promotions of products high in fat, sugar and salt by location and by price that closed on 6th April. 

Its ultimate aim is to reduce the purchase of so-called unhealthy food and drink –both in shops and foodservice outlets – as it bids to tackle child obesity.

Sarah Clout, co-owner of Holwood Farm Shop in Keston, Kent, said small shops should be exempt. “You haven’t got the flexibility to move your products around and I have a lot of chocolate on my till.

“I think it’s fine to apply it to supermarkets that have flexibility to move products but if you have a small shop how can you accommodate it?”

Clout said the government should credit people with the intelligence to know what they were buying. “Where it’s displayed in a shop is irrelevant because people will seek it out.”

Paul Castle, business manager at Farrington’s Farm Shop in Gurney, Bristol, said it was one thing cracking down on supermarkets selling such products in key areas but “a store checkout and an aisle end can be the whole part of an independent”.

A typical independent, smaller than 3,000 sq ft, does not have the same wide choice of options for merchandising as supermarkets, he said.

But he added that if everyone focused on providing the best possible food “in the healthiest possible way”, such restrictions would become incidental.

When FFD contacted the DHSC, a spokesman refused to be drawn on whether it was considering an exemption for smaller shops. 

The Association of Convenience Stores is lobbying government to exempt small stores from the placement restriction because it could be “extremely destructive”.

Read the ACS argument in full on page 55.

This story appeared in the May issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

Read more of the latest news from Fine Food Digest here

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