Food companies make products healthier at accelerated pace, in response to HFSS restrictions

Date : 02 November 2023

A new report from IGD’s Health team reveals that many UK food companies have responded to restrictions on the in-store promotions of foods high in fat, sugar, and salt, by making their products healthier at pace.

IGD’s report Reformulation by the food industry in the context of HFSS shows that a significant 44% of UK food companies asked, have reformulated the nutritional profiles of their products in response to the new HFSS legislation – often at an accelerated pace.

As part of the government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy, guidance for businesses on HFSS restrictions were published alongside a nationwide roll-out in supermarkets from October 2022. However, restrictions to volume promotions, such as familiar two-for-one offers, have been delayed until 2025.

IGD’s Head of Health and Sustainable Diets, Cathy Capelin said:

‘The fact that 44% of companies surveyed have reformulated foods in response to the legislation is encouraging for our ambition to make healthy and sustainable diets easy and accessible for everyone.’

While food manufacturers have been reformulating the nutritional profile of products for years, Government targets have been focussed on one nutrient at a time. The advent of the HFSS restrictions has seen accelerated growth in developing multiple nutrients simultaneously in line with the Nutrient Profiling Model (NPM)1 This process consists of reducing use of salt, sugar, energy, fat etc. and increasing the use of nutrients such as fibre, fruit, vegetables, and nuts.

As a result, household favourites dropped in shopping baskets may have different nutritional values than before. IGD’s Health team have collated the case-studies below, available on the linked report:

  • Goodfella’s
  • Aunt Bessie’s
  • Mr Kipling
  • Walkers
  • Aldi Popcorn

Previous research from IGD explored how HFSS has been activated in shops across the country, and what the changes look like. IGD’s Retail Experts found that traditional confectionary areas near check-outs have typically been moved to ‘Food to Go’ aisles, and that items such as gum and vapes are being housed on ‘gondola ends’ instead of confectionary, occasionally alongside healthier choices such as nuts.

Further to this, there are other compelling reasons, as outlined by the report, why food manufacturers and retailers would choose to ‘reformulate,’ such as the government’s voluntary targets on reducing salt, sugar and calories, internal targets, and reducing actual costs for the shopper.

But the full scope of the industry response to HFSS is yet to be seen. IGD will continue to work with data experts at the University of Leeds2 and multiple UK retailers to analyse the impacts of HFSS.

The analysis will have a particular focus on how impact may change across different communities, with results due in 2024.

IGD is delighted to be undertaking this research, which enables the organisation to convene experts across academia, charity, and industry to assess current and future behaviour change in how the nation eats and shops.

Naomi Kissman, Social Impact Director at IGD said: ‘The extent and speed of reformulation in response to HFSS legislation is encouraging when considering potential impacts on public health. However, there is still much to be learned about the overall effectiveness of these changes and how we can successfully drive long-term behaviour change. I am excited to continue our work in this area, including data-driven research on HFSS implementation.’

For more information and interviews with Cathy Capelin, please contact Tamsin Flower: [email protected] / 07483070457

You can read the new report Reformulation by the food industry in the context of HFSS.

Read about the Health Team’s ambition to make healthy and sustainable diets available to everyone.


Notes to editors:

1 (NPM)
2 This research is part of a broader UKRI Transforming UK Food Systems academic collaboration the Diet and Health Inequalities (DIO food)

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