The best way to navigate HFSS legislation

The Best Way to Navigate HFSS Legislation

In our previous blog we summarised the upcoming HFSS legislation and recent changes to it, but what’s the best way to navigate these restrictions?

This article takes you through factors to consider, and also how the legislation brings about a golden opportunity for innovation.

The Best Way to Adapt

1 It Depends on the Product

Different product categories need to adapt in different ways.

The most obvious step businesses may take is to reformulate all their products to reduce the amount of fat salt and sugar – but it’s actually incredibly important to not assume that every single product needs to reformulate and reduce unhealthy content.

In other words, the demand for HFSS items is not likely to disappear, even if consumers may have to search a little more to find them, and so it isn’t wise to take away these options – consumers do want occasional indulgence!

For this reason, it’s important to take calculated decisions to avoid guessing and decide next steps depending on what the consumer wants, not what companies think they might want.

In practise, this means businesses should keep pace with the consumer to make sure they make the right decisions, by conducting frequent research.

If changes are made to the products consumers love, and the taste suffers as a result, the end result could be worse than leaving the product as it was.

The specific needs within each category depends on a businesses’ own products and their reputations – which can only be teased out through individual research.


2 Reformulation vs ‘Real’ Innovation

In the above section we mentioned that not every product needs to be drastically changed, but this doesn’t mean companies should simply do nothing if they fall into that category. In fact, there is an even better strategy companies can adopt to really grow – innovating new products in the style of scientific research and development (R&D).

An opportunity for real innovation through scientific R&D exists where reformulation doesn’t work. Instead of forcing products to fit in HFSS compliant categories, it may be better to create a whole new product that stands authentically by itself.

The Case for Reformulation

Reformulation is a great option depending on whether a product can actually benefit from a reduction in HFSS content, without suffering a loss of quality.

The next best option consumers voted for was making portions smaller, a viable option for those products that would suffer from reducing fat sugar and salt content. This would have to be done carefully though, again depending on the product, as consumers that are loyal to brands might not actually want this.

But the most exciting option, an opportunity for sustained growth in organisations, is R&D-style innovation.


The Case for R&D-style Innovation

When we mention a golden opportunity for innovation, this is really about R&D, as reformulation may work but can backfire and often only leads to small gains, whereas innovation gives companies a real chance to shine and progress, becoming leaders in their own right instead of frantically trying to force items into constantly shifting standards.

To do this and achieve more impactful results, the industry can embrace a shift from iteration (the day-to-day innovations that only move products forward in tiny steps) to a more R&D led approach to innovation, which embraces science. Alternative ingredients and production techniques should be fully embraced, to generate exciting new product development (NPD) for the future generations.

The plant-based industry is a leading example with its scientific approach to innovation. This industry has already seen success by experimenting with various flavours and textures to create and replicate existing flavours in meat products, driving extremely high levels of growth and adoption.

This is a fantastic example of the power of innovation – if companies had continued the way they were, ignoring a growing demand for alternative products to existing meat ones, they would have missed out on a large proportion of the market that were willing to try. Companies identified a growing trend and made sure to take advantage of it to reach success, expanding ranges to suit new target consumers.

The growing interest in healthier eating is another trend just like the above – and it’s time to target it, through innovation.

Some other examples of R&D-style Innovation include;

  • Launching an ice cream with innovative ingredients that is tastier than leading brands but significantly healthier – like Oppo Brothers
  • Using the alternative ingredient Seaweed as the main ingredient in snacks – like Shore Seaweed

After conducting research on Vypr, we found out that the general public are very open to trying alternatives to unhealthy ingredients – showing it is worthwhile to invest in R&D to find other alternatives and techniques to create delicious food that is also healthier.

How to Go About R&D

R&D doesn’t have to be a scary prospect. Brands can confidently invest in R&D by utilising robust consumer insight to make evidence-based decisions, and target the groups that have already started to show an interest in trying innovative products.

This consumer insight doesn’t need to be difficult to attain – online tools like Vypr allow companies to achieve quick and robust insights from a large community of consumers.

Delays to HFSS restrictions are not stopping organisations from getting ahead. Other companies are already taking advantage of the opportunity through innovation, such as Calbee UK – find out how they launched an innovative HFSS compliant snack range using Vypr, and got listed in various retailers in this case study.

Discover more on the best way to go about this innovation in our next blog.


All in all, the amount of opportunity from the changing food and drink environment is incredibly exciting and should motivate companies into action, through investing in reformulation but more importantly, innovation. We describe the best way to go about this innovation in our next blog.