How can brands and advertisers respond to the HFSS restrictions?

With restrictions on promoting HFSS products coming into force next year, brands need to rethink how to engage consumers to support sales, penetration, and brand equity.
06 July 2021
salt fat sugar
Cathy Capelin kantar worldpanel

Strategic Insight Director, Nutrition

Gwladys Hall

Head of Media, Worldpanel Division, UK

lynne deason

Head of Creative Excellence, UK

Get in touch

The UK Government’s proposed legislation on promoting high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products is expected to come into force by 1 January 2023.

The restrictions will limit advertising, promotional activity and in-store campaigns for products in several categories such as soft drinks, confectionery, breakfast cereals, treats, beverages, crisps and snacks, as well as pizzas and ready meals. As part of the government’s Obesity Strategy, this policy is one of several measures that aim to reduce the number of adults living with obesity and halve childhood obesity by 2030.

It’s one of the government’s most significant interventions in our food and drinks choices since the soft drinks industry levy, with notable potential impact on brands and manufacturers of those products in scope, as well as the retailers that sell them.

Significant impacts for FMCG

A substantial share of take-home grocery purchases is at risk from these new restrictions. Our purchase panel data shows that 40% of take-home food and drink spend in Great Britain is on HFSS products, and 15% is on those which fall within the scope of the policy.

One element of the restrictions – the ban on online advertising, and TV advertising before 9pm –could have profound impacts on brands. Our evaluation of FMCG brands’ advertising campaigns found that digital advertising generates a greater sales uplift per household reached than other channels.

And TV ads are, of course, key to wide-reaching campaigns. Advertising does more than generate short-term sales: it builds longer term predisposition to choose the brand over other alternatives, establishes brand cues that help the brand become instantly recognisable, and builds associations, which amongst other things can enhance the actual experience of consuming or using the product.







Return per 1000 households



(Source: 30 Digital and TV media campaigns measured by Kantar [methodology: Consumer Mix Model] between Nov 2015 and Sep 2018.)

How can brands and advertisers respond?

1. Understand the risk and opportunity to your business.

The proportion of brand or category buyers watching TV at different times of day varies, meaning that the impact of the TV advertising ban will not be felt evenly. Kantar’s data pinpoints to what extent ad restrictions will affect specific brands and categories.

2. Understand the media consumption of buyers of HFSS categories.

Taking the confectionery category as an example, heavy buyers (buyers responsible for the top 20% of spend) of HFSS products are more likely to use Facebook and Pinterest, whereas light buyers (buyers responsible for the bottom 50% of spend) are more likely to use Twitter*. For small and medium companies (those with 249 employees or less), or those looking to innovate, understanding what social media channels buyers (or non-buyers) are using is key to leveraging digital channels in the future.

3. Understand which other connection points will work for your target audience, deliver against objectives, and are authentic for your brand.

Radio, for example, still has very broad reach among shoppers, including younger households (35 and under). This age group is also increasingly engaged in streaming platforms and podcasts over the past year.

Furthermore, heavy HFSS buyers in the confectionery category, are more likely to listen to radio than light HFSS buyers*.

The secret to success is not only identifying which connection points are an optimal fit for your brand, but in learning how to create content that is effective in each context. In press, for example, people are looking for stimulation and something interesting to engage with — you need to hook the reader in and earn their attention during the rapid scanning process.

4. Get smart with campaign planning.

Beyond considering individual channels, brands can and should take an agile approach to media planning to ensure they are getting the best value out of each. It’s time to go beyond analysing the performance of channels individually, and to take a proactive approach to discover how different channels work in combination to deliver stronger campaign results in challenging times — that’s what we call synergies KPIs in Kantar’s Consumer Media Model (CMM). Coherence across every brand encounter is key to maximising the potential impact of multiple connection points.

5. Build brand values beyond taste.

Consumers increasingly look to brands to make a positive difference to the world, beyond meeting needs through a great product. Kantar’s analysis from BrandZ, the world’s largest brand equity database, shows that over a twelve-year period, brands recognised by people for a purpose beyond profit grew more than twice as fast.

6. Leverage the power of innovation.

Innovation is a key foundation for growth. Whilst reformulation is a possibility for some, it may be out of reach for many brands. Innovation is a way to make your brand different from others, and to establish meaningful connections with people by meeting needs in new and exciting ways. Think about how consumption moments may evolve as a result, as this can be a rich and fertile ground for innovation; think about the whole experience covering channel, pack, product, format.

Find out more in this one pager or contact us to discover how we can help brands succeed in this new world.


* Kantar, Worldpanel media questionnaire fieldwork January 2021, n=15,919 GB respondents.

Get in touch
Related solutions
We monitor FMCG purchases and trends across all retail channels, through the biggest consumer panels globally.
Boost returns on your media investment through the lens of actual consumer behaviour, and with a single-source approach.
Optimise your media mix across channels to deliver impactful campaigns and improve return on investment.