• Matt Lee

Retailers and brands need to start testing now for the HFSS legislation changes

April 2022: a date now firmly etched into the minds of most retailers and brands. That is the date the government’s new HFSS legislation comes into force. Whether you think they have gone too far or not far enough, the bottom line is the UK has a problem with its weight, which the pandemic has further exposed. The government has tried softer approaches in the past with initiatives like Change for Life, but these have had minimal impact. So, it’s little surprise they have taken this as their next step. Whilst new details of the restrictions are being released every week, we know the legislation will have an impact on both retailers and brands, so now is the time both should be working together to adapt to the new world. But where to start? For non-compliant brands, the biggest question on their minds is ‘where should I spend my money now?’ Rather than viewing ‘shopper marketing’ as a necessity – a way to negotiate secondary space which will no longer be available or listings which will now be more competitive – it’s time to start seeing it as fundamental to success. Losing secondary space means there is going to be a greater need to drive traffic to the ‘fixture’ and stand out vs the competition. It is therefore now even more important for brands to embrace commerce marketing, which can be robustly measured and provide learnings and insight for media that will continue to deliver high reach, strong sales and a positive ROI, even after the regulations come into force. For compliant products, they need to think about what opportunities will open up as a result of the restrictions – for example, greater access to off-shelf space and less competition for advertising in certain areas – and how they adapt their strategies accordingly. For retailers, this one is simple. Make it easy for brands to activate their commerce marketing spend. Be clear with them about what they can and can’t do when activating media. Creating specific media toolkits for compliant vs non-compliant products is a quick win, but their longer-term ambition should be to relook at their media channels. There is already huge appetite from brands for new media opportunities to help mitigate the loss of secondary space. However, retailers need to push the boundaries cleverly in ways that remain right for their shoppers – for example, utilising more digital touchpoints that don’t add more clutter but grab attention and allow for more brands to feature. And finally, for where brands and retailers are working together, it’s a no brainer. Test, test, and test again. Activate ahead of April 2022 to predict the challenges that will be faced and build a bank of learnings and solutions to put both parties in good stead for when the rules do come into force. One thing is undeniable: this is both parties’ responsibility. As the rules become clearer, both brands and retailers are going to need to upskill everyone in their teams to understand the implications and work together to adapt and evolve product and commerce marketing strategies accordingly.