snacks aisle hfss health unhealthy

We are seeing some positives coming from the new HFSS regulations in tackling the UK’s obesity crisis. NIQ points out the rush from big brands to develop non-HFSS lines in categories such as crisps, pizza and sweets, which can only be a good thing for healthier choices. However, there are consequences faced by food and drink brands like us who are inherently challenging the unhealthy state of the food and drink industry.

These challenger products have been meticulously developed by purpose-driven small businesses, with the latest scientific evidence and guidance from nutrition experts, and they are responding to the needs and wants of consumers who are looking for higher-quality products.

Under HFSS rules, brands with ingredients such as cheese, nuts, avocado, and coconut have found themselves penalised for their high saturated fat content, despite the fact they provide a plethora of health benefits that the blanket regulations fail to acknowledge.

Following a suggestion from one of our retailer partners to reformulate our bestselling SKU – classified ‘unhealthy’ by HFSS standards – we conducted our own consumer research to assess what our customers thought about a lower-fat version.

The results were a landslide. An overwhelming 89% of our consumers preferred the original recipe – our signature granola full of ‘good fats’ from the coconut chips and pecan nuts we use. It’s a recipe that HFSS considers ‘unhealthy’. It begs the question: why are we being forced to create products that don’t taste as good, under a blanket definition of health? 

We are a brand led by taste but also, very importantly, health. We create our granola range using only whole foods, which makes them naturally nutritionally dense and rich in flavour. We are passionate about sourcing the best quality ingredients as we believe in enjoying a tasty and healthy granola. We believe in using mindful amounts of natural sugars to sweeten our granolas, which means no artificial sweeteners or other hidden ingredients. Reformulating our products that score unfavourably against the blunt HFSS standards prevents us from doing that.

In our research, we also received a clear sense that our consumers feel educated enough to know what a healthy, balanced lifestyle means, and resent being told what to do: “Granola is supposed to be good for you anyway, the original recipe is nicer and seems to contain more nuts. If the original recipe is better for you than other cereals I would rather have that than go completely ‘healthy’.” This preference shows: our product is in organic sales growth across all our retail partners.

To add to the commentary from Rod Addy – who “is sick of the food industry being used by successive governments and the mainstream media as a scapegoat for failed health policies because it is an easy target” – we believe strongly in balancing product, people and planet with profit.

The government should recognise the importance of preserving the integrity of products that genuinely contribute to the wellbeing of consumers. As it takes a more lenient view on strict green targets, we hope it might also show a pragmatic approach to the HFSS legislation.