Investigating the impact of HFSS

Date : 27 October 2023

One year on from implementation of the governments HFSS legislation1, we want to understand if the changes made to retail environments are having the desired effect, and whether they are working for all communities. In line with our mission to make healthy, sustainable diets easy and accessible for everyone, we’re delighted to be part of the DIO-FOOD work package working to investigate the impact of the legislation on shopping baskets.

In October 2022, restrictions on the placement of foods and drinks that are considered high in fat, salt and sugar came into force within England, as part of the Government’s Obesity plan2. The first policy of its kind and scale, the legislation has significantly changed the retail environment by limiting the types of products which can be placed in prominent areas of supermarkets, such as the ends of aisle, store entrance and checkouts1.

It's estimated by the government that retailers have spent £47 Million to implement the legislation3, however IGDs ShopperVista found that 66% of customers hadn’t noticed a difference in store4. Although there has been some investigation into how legislation has impacted early HFSS sales5, it’s not currently known how the legislation impacts wider purchasing, dietary intake, specific demographic groups or obesity. With an extension of the policy within the devolved nations imminent or under consideration6, further research is needed to ensure that the legislation is having the intended impact and continues to be an appropriate use of resources.

To contribute to evidence-based policy going forward, a team from the University of Leeds Customer Data research Centre (CDRC), led by Professor Michelle Morris and supported by IGD, will be evaluating the impact of this legislation. This research is part of a broader UKRI Transforming UK Food Systems academic collaboration, led by Professor Alex Johnstone at the University of Aberdeen, the Diet and Health Inequalities (DIO food) project. The work package 6 partnership builds upon IGD’s ongoing programme of real-life behaviour change trials with the University of Leeds to build evidence on what works, and doesn't, to shift consumers to healthier and more sustainable diets.

By working with population level supermarket transaction data from multiple major retailers, the team will analyse the impacts of the implementation from a health and sustainability perspective, using dietary (Eatwell Guide) and environmental metrics developed with IGD’s Industry Nutrition Strategy Group. By selecting stores across the deciles of the Priority Places for Food Index (developed by the Consumer Data Research Centre and Which?) we will be able to understand how the legislation may be impacting diet and health inequalities too.

Results are expected at the end of 2024, and we can’t wait to share findings.

More about the DIO Food Project

The goal of the DIO Food project is to identify how we can provide timely evidence-based research and commentary from those facing diet and health inequalities. The main focus of the project is working with vulnerable groups (early years and people with low income) to tackle the cost-of-living crisis to give timely policy directives.

DIO Food is an add on research activity to the Food Insecurity in people living with Obesity (FIO Food) which aims to provide actionable evidence for policy on retail strategies to address dietary inequalities in people living with obesity and food insecurity, to support sustainable and healthier food choices in the UK food system.


1 DHSC. (2018) Childhood obesity: a plan for action, chapter 2. London: DHSC. Available here.

2 The Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021 (2021/1368). Available here.

3 DHSC. (2020) Restricting checkout, end-of-aisle, and store entrance sales of food and drinks high in fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS), impact assessment. London: DHSC. Available here.

4 IGD. ShopperVista: Health, nutrition and ethics monthly shopper update [Internet]. Watford: IGD; 2023 [cited 2023 July 26]. Available here.

5 5. Ball, S. (2023) ‘Weighing the impact of HFSS laws’. Kantar Worldpanel Available here.

6 Welsh Government. (2023) Restriction on high fat, sugar and salt products to be introduced, press release. Available here.