ACS urges Government to exempt small stores from HFSS restrictions

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has responded to the Government’s consultation on restricting high fat, salt, sugar (HFSS) products, urging the Government to exempt small stores from the regulations and narrow the types of products that would fall in scope of the proposed restrictions.

The Department of Health and Social Care are currently consulting on how the government can reduce children’s exposure to advertising for products that are high in fat, salt and sugar, to reduce their consumption of these products. Measures proposed in the consultation include:

> restricting volume-based price promotions of HFSS food and drink that encourage people to buy more than they need, for example, ‘buy one, get one free’ and free refills of sugary soft drinks
> restricting the placement of HFSS food and drink at main selling locations in stores, such as checkouts, aisle ends and store entrances

ACS has called on the Government to exempt all stores under 280sqm / 3000sq ft from the placement restrictions, as making significant changes to the layout of these stores is impractical and could be extremely disruptive. ACS estimates that the cost of adapting convenience stores to comply with the proposed placement restrictions could cost up to £483m.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We do not believe the Government’s role should be to dictate the layout of shops. For our members, many of which who run very small shops, banning several categories of product from main areas of the store will be expensive and impractical.

“We are also not sure how the Government would intend to enforce these regulations. At a time when retailers are being told that trading standards don’t have the resources to investigate widespread selling of illicit tobacco by criminals, and the police don’t have the resources to investigate theft, abuse and violence against staff, allocating people and money to measuring the distance between certain products and the till does not make sense.”

The products that are proposed to be in scope of the regulations could cover almost half of those sold in the convenience sector, including confectionery, soft drinks, food to go, bakery products and savoury snacks. ACS has called on the Government to narrow the number of products that are in scope in order to avoid confusion and unintended consequences, such as restricting products that could form part of a nutritious meal.

In its submission to the consultation, ACS has also raised serious concerns about the accuracy of the Government’s impact assessment for the regulations. The assessment significantly underestimates the number of convenience stores in the UK (suggesting that there are around 13,500 stores instead of over 46,000), as well as underestimating the cost of enforcement for the regulations.

Lowman continued, “We want to support the continued growth of healthier eating options in local shops, and we have been working with the Government and health professionals to do this including promoting the Healthy Start scheme in convenience stores, and working with the Food Foundation on their Peas Please programme.”