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IRI explores way ahead for F&B brands as UK gov looks to ban online and TV ads for HFSS foods

28/05/2021 – Research / IRI / Advertising / HFSS / Government / UK

IRI explores way ahead for F&B brands as UK gov looks to ban online and TV ads for HFSS foods

The UK Government looks set to go ahead with its plans to restrict products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) being shown on TV (pre-9pm) and online from 2022. In response, Carl Carter, Marketing Strategy & Effectiveness Director at IRI, explores the latest IRI data around the impact of the ban and the options ahead for FMCG manufacturers.

“At IRI we estimate that 50 per cent of the total HFSS marketing spend (£384 million) in the UK will be impacted – that’s worth £192 million to food and drink manufacturers and retailers alike,” Mr Carter advised.


Advertising can be effective at driving sales for brands, he noted: “Well executed and optimised advertising spend nudges consumers towards one brand over a competitor in the category, rather than into the category itself. So, if you are in the mood for something sweet and in the confectionery aisle, there’s plenty of evidence that having recently been exposed to advertising will increase your chances of adding that brand into your consideration set rather than drawing you into a completely new category you’ve not shopped before,” he told us.

What are the options for F&B advertisers?


So, what can food and drink advertisers do now that the restrictions are coming into force next year? Based on IRI data and insight, the research firm has identified the five options as:

1. Accept the ban, with manufacturers and retailers absorbing a loss of £192 million.

2. Move advertising spend to post-watershed, with a predicted loss of £112 million on sales.

3. Move advertising spend to other channels, with a predicted loss of £96 million in sales.

4. Advertise an alternative low fat, sugar, salt (LFSS) brand - 78% of manufacturers have a non-HFSS product. But, by shifting advertising to products with lower penetration or new product development, we would expect to see lower returns and a lower halo impact across brands. IRI predicts an impact on sales of -£80–100 million.

5. Re-formulate HFSS products to be compliant. This could be the best option for manufacturers, with a lower impact on sales of -£30-75 million, but also the most difficult.  While this would allow for a continuation of advertising of core products with the highest penetration, it is incredibly complex and could face consumer pushback, while some products cannot be reformulated.


“While it is a challenging time for many FMCG brands and retailers, now is the time to investigate new opportunities and test new media strategies ahead of the regulations coming into effect,” Mr Carter concluded.

Latest issue – Vol 1/23
– Health & Nutrition focus
– Gulfood 2023 Special
– Next level legume – The rise of the chickpea
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