The Government’s delay in implementing restrictions on volume deals on HFSS foods until next year has been widely criticised, both by those lobbying for measures to combat obesity and poor health and by brands on both sides of the restrictions. So what is the forecast for healthier brands and how can they navigate the changing restrictions? Our founder and managing director Ross Carlin shares his thoughts.

Since the Government’s U-turn last week on HFSS multi-buy deals, which would have prevented in-store discounts such as BOGOF offers on high fat, salt, and sugar products,  opinions, and plans on how to navigate this new food landscape have been on everyone’s lips. Although supermarket giant Tesco has committed to going ahead with axing such promotions despite the delay, the change has left brands wondering what this means for them.

Healthy challenger brands have already written to the PM to criticise the move, accusing him of ‘worsening the obesity crisis’ and hampering their upcoming success compared to non-HFSS-compliant counterparts. Established brands also have reason to bemoan the delay, with some having invested heavily in recipe innovation and NPD to meet the impending regulations.

While income squeezes may be hitting efforts to eat more healthily, consumers are increasingly harnessing a ‘good for me, good for the planet’ attitude towards food, as trust around nutritious fortified foods grows and opportunities for the plant-based category have arisen.

As experts in growing healthy brands and helping them to launch into retailers, however, we’d urge companies not to panic, but to take advantage of the restrictions that will still be going ahead as planned as well as the changing consumer landscape.

A health-conscious consumer

Measures to prevent HFSS products in key store locations – entrances, end aisles, and checkouts – are still set to come into force in October and we’ve already seen a clear increase in healthy food habits over the last few years.

Consumers are prioritising their health now more than ever, particularly how feeling good and looking after your body from the inside out can positively impact mental health and wellbeing. While the national lockdowns saw people reaching for less healthy comfort foods, post-pandemic consumers are now focusing more on health and wellness, both mentally and physically.

The health and wellness industry was valued at upwards of £17.4 billion in 2018 and the HFSS regulations will only accelerate this growth. Consumers value convenience now more than ever and healthier products occupying prime retail space at the front of stores and point of sale locations will further encourage them to choose these products over their less healthy alternatives.

On the whey to healthier buying habits

We’re also observing an acute increase in supplement taking and the popularity of brands that offer higher protein, fibre, and other health supplements. 6.1% of food and drink product launches in 2020 claimed to be high in protein or with added protein (Mintel) and taking protein supplements is becoming increasingly common among consumers. We’re seeing all types of food and drink brands, from yoghurt to pasta, adding health supplements to stand out among their competitors. This will only increase in the snack market with the upcoming regulation changes.

Nutricosmetics – supplements that boost skin, nails, and hair – is a huge upcoming market and we could well see these ‘super blends’ expand into the snacking market too. On-the-go supplements like gummies and tablets are already incredibly popular as consumers want to get their vitamin fix quickly and easily.

There’s been an uplift in naturally occurring ingredients that are supposed to boost natural beauty – including mushrooms, cactus extract, and seaweed, as well as high demand for collagen products. We can expect to see these trending supplements sneaking into the snacking market too with an increased focus on ‘organic’ ingredients.

Brands big and small

With this increased focus on healthier products and the changes to HFSS restrictions – whenever they may come –  the healthy snacking industry can be expected to flourish in retailers. While their less healthy competitors rush to innovate and create new HFSS-compliant products, healthier snacks are already ahead of the curve and can occupy these significant store positions immediately with their existing product ranges, so we can anticipate that large healthy brands will flourish, especially in the short-term.

However, this drive towards HFSS-compliant NPD from historically ‘less healthy’ brands will eventually skew the market, and we can expect to see healthier versions of old favourites fighting with existing healthy snacking brands for these prominent positions. Digital platforms like The Buyer’s Discovery Club will become increasingly significant for buyers when choosing which products will occupy these key locations, helping them to filter through endless lists of new HFSS-compliant snacks.

Despite established healthy, and less-than-healthy brands fighting for these key locations, this shouldn’t dishearten challengers, but rather present a unique opportunity for disruptive healthy brands to get their foot in the door and challenge bigger competitors for those all-important point-of-sale spots.

While conglomerates will have an extensive product portfolio, they may struggle to innovate at the pace of smaller disruptive brands, who can flex to meet the requirements more quickly. The new requirements provide a great opportunity for challenger brands to compete with more established names as the shelves see a shake-up.

The best thing smaller start-ups can do to complete is to ensure they’re doing all they can to help retail buyers, making their lives as easy as possible. As well as helping them comply with HFSS regulations, brands can help buyers meet their other targets in categories like sustainability and innovation, to compete with bigger healthy snacking brands. Building a strong relationship with buyers will be the key to getting an advantage for disruptive brands.

With the cost-of-living crisis affecting government decision-making, it’s hard to predict how soon we can expect to see HFSS regulations come into play but one thing is for certain, we’re becoming a healthier nation, and brands will have to play by new rules to meet this demand.

To find out more about how The Buyer’s Discovery Club can help, visit our website.