Get ready for the legislation landslide

A packed schedule of government activity awaits in 2018 following a quiet 12 months

After a relatively quiet legislative year in 2017, we’re looking at a packed schedule of government activity in 2018, with key policy announcements that the wholesale sector must be prepared for.

The members of FWD agree that initiatives to improve public health must have our support, even if we sometimes argue that the methods suggested may have an unfair impact on our operations. This is where FWD’s role as our voice in Westminster comes in, to communicate the concerns of members and ensure that wholesalers don’t take an unfair share of the legislative burden. At the same time it’s important in these discussions that we’re able to demonstrate that we’re on the front foot when asked to take responsibility for the impact on our industry.

Nevertheless the measures coming our way will require investment and careful management of cost increases throughout the supply chain.

April sees the arrival of the Soft Drinks Levy, with rises of up to 8p on 330ml drinks containing high levels of added sugar. Government’s challenge three years ago to manufacturers was to reformulate and review portion size to avoid the levy. We’ve since seen an increased range of healthier options and reduced-sugar alternatives. FWD is also in discussion with Public Health England (PHE) about reformulation of drinks outside the scope of the levy, including milk-based beverages and juices. Whether soft drink sales decline or we pass more of the profit on to the Treasury, we need to prepare for a new dynamic in this category.

In the last few weeks we’ve seen a campaign to limit children’s access to energy drinks, with Jamie Oliver championing a voluntary ban on sales to under 16s, and growing numbers of retail chains making commitments.

The Government will release its first public report on the Sugar Reduction Programme this spring, reviewing progress on the levy and product reformulation. The Change4Life campaign has also launched a campaign encouraging families to switch to healthier snacks.

PHE will soon reveal findings on children’s calorie consumption, expected to translate into guidelines later this year and engagement with industry to achieve them.

Other key reviews will include PHE’s evaluation of progress on industry salt targets this year, and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s findings on UK fat consumption. A further version of the Nutrient Profile Model will be published sometime in 2018. This is the scoring tool originally developed to guide restriction of advertising of products high in fat, salt or sugar to children.

Members supplying hospitals are preparing for CQUIN1b, the new standard for healthy food for NHS staff, visitors and patients, the biggest change to have hit hospital catering for decades. Updates to guidelines for 2017-19 push the focus to new levels, limiting promotion of foods and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar. These are often top retail sellers for hospitals, meaning we need to support operators to shift customer preference and loyalty.

Elsewhere, consultation on the Scottish Government’s “A Healthier Future – Action and Ambitions on Diet, Activity and Healthy Weight” has ended, with recommendations to follow.

Scotland has also confirmed the adoption of a minimum unit price for alcohol, with England and Wales likely to follow suit. While FWD supports MUP, which will limit supermarkets’ deep discounting, a cross-border price differential would damage sales in Scotland. MUP will also massively increase the price of the strong beers and ciders which over-index in the convenience channel. These ciders will also soon attract a new duty rate, at a level still to be announced.

All the above will affect FWD members to different degrees. Our association’s role is to drive awareness of policy changes and their implications, and influence implementation where we can.

Alcohol Energy drinks Government Health Minimum Unit Pricing Soft Drinks Industry Levy