HFSS food & drinks

Plans include moves to outlaw temporary price reductions

Draconian plans from the Welsh government to ban temporary price reductions would be a disaster for shoppers struggling with the cost of living crisis, ministers have been warned.

In a joint letter to the deputy minister for mental health & wellbeing, Lynne Neagle, a raft of trade bodies warned the proposals would be a hammer blow for Welsh producers, as well as limit choice for consumers.

The Welsh government looks set to introduce legislation following that in England to crack down on promotions of HFSS products through deals such as bogofs and in prime positions such as store entrances and end of aisles.

However, the plans go further, including moves to outlaw temporary price reductions, such as 50% off, meal deals and further locations in store such as island displays.

Industry bodies said the proposals had the potential to increase food prices for consumers compared with other parts of the UK, while reducing availability of some products. The proposals would also have a negative impact on the supply chain and new product development for Welsh producers, and lead to increased waste, they claimed.

In England, a ban on promotions in prominent locations came into force in October. Plans for a ban on multibuys were delayed until October this year.

“The Welsh retail industry is committed to helping consumers make healthier choices,” said Welsh Retail Consortium head Sara Jones. “Fresh fruit & vegetables are heavily price promoted and often the very first thing shoppers see when entering food retailing stores.

“We are particularly concerned over plans to restrict price promotions and to ban meal deals. Promotions within categories allow retailers and brands to compete to attract customers, improving competition and keeping prices down. It would be regressive and irresponsible to put up costs in this manner with no evidence at this time that it would significantly improve public health.

We hope Welsh ministers will keep consumers in mind as this process continues over the coming months.”

ACS CEO James Lowman added:Convenience retailers are facing huge cost increases this year with energy bills, labour costs and product prices all going up. The proposed HFSS rules in Wales are unnecessarily inconsistent with those already agreed in England, putting additional pressure on retailers to start from scratch on store layouts at the cost of thousands of pounds.

“If the Welsh government decides to proceed with these regulations, we urge them to exempt temporary price reductions and meal deals from the restrictions, as these help customers to save money and feed their families whilst ensuring fair competition across both Wales and England.”

David Thomson, Food & Drink Federation Cymru director of strategy and devolved nations, said: “The Welsh government must ensure that any policy does not increase the cost of food for the people of Wales at a time when households across the country are struggling to make ends meet. 

“In addition, it is critical that Welsh food and drink manufacturers have a level playing field with their competitors in other parts of the UK.”

 A Welsh government spokesman said: “We are considering the next steps on price promotions and locations and no final position has been made following the pubic consultation.

“We are not proposing to ban meal deals themselves but to consider whether there should be restrictions on high fat, salt and sugar products, that may be part of a meal deal.”