Healthy swaps possible under new junk food bans

The majority of brand owners have the potential to switch marketing spend to healthier food and drink products once new government advertising restrictions come into force, according to new analysis.

Regulations to end TV advertising for products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) before 9pm and restrict paid-for HFSS advertising online are included within the health and care bill, which is currently before parliament.

Research by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) found that 84% of HFSS products had an alternative non-HFSS product from the same brand, master brand, parent company, or license holder company brand portfolio that could be substituted in advertising, of which 40% were defined as “direct swaps”, for example swapping a carbonated drink for another carbonated drink.

CRUK analysed 65 brands listed at major UK supermarkets across 12 food and drink sub-categories associated with HFSS products. It said its analysis showed that most companies have it in their power to do more to promote healthier options, adding that the introduction of HFSS advertising restrictions had significant scope to successfully incentivise companies to better advertise their non-HFSS products.

Food manufacturers and their representatives have expressed concern over the new rules, which also restrict in-store promotions of HFSS products. They argue the restrictions will impact their ability to invest and market new healthier products if the healthier alternatives still cannot be marketed.

CRUK, however, said the latest analysis complemented its previously published analysis that suggested 79% of potential revenue loss from removing all HFSS adverts on TV could be mitigated against by companies advertising their existing non-HFSS products instead.

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