halloween sweets

The devil is in the detail. At least, in the case of data. It suggests HFSS legislation isn’t packing the punch it promised, given that sweet consumption over Halloween remained largely unaffected.

A full year post-HFSS legislation, sweets sales stand as a potent benchmark, allowing us to gauge the real impact of these rules.

Halloween wasn’t the horror story we might have expected despite the impact of these regulations, along with a cost of living crisis. However, there’s a scary story lurking behind the numbers that could have implications for manufacturers and retailers down the road – particularly if promises from a newly formed government to crack down on HFSS legislation are introduced.

Here are our key takeaways from the spooky season:

1. Volumes were only temporarily boosted

Circana data shows value sales of sweets increased 16.7% compared to last year’s Halloween period. But that was driven by price rises of over 18% on last year. Sweets volumes were down 1.3% in the four weeks to 4 November. Over a longer 13-week period, that decline was far more marked: volumes were down 5% year on year.

2. Supermarkets continue to gain Halloween share

Halloween is a season where supermarkets win over convenience, as households often buy in bulk to give treats to doorstep tricksters. HFSS legislation has not changed this dynamic. Supermarket share of sweets volumes was already on an upward trajectory and this accelerated over Halloween. Supermarkets won 4.2pp of volume share, translating to 2.7pp of value share gain.

3. Promotions won over shoppers

Efficient promotions won over shoppers this Halloween, despite the limitations on secondary promotional display locations for HFSS foods and drinks.

Circana’s PromoTrack reveals Halloween saw a surprising 2pp rise in confectionery placements in lobby displays, reaching 15.1%. This is despite a year of these displays plummeting due to HFSS regulations. It doesn’t necessarily mean rules are being broken, but it does cast a shadow over the impact of HFSS legislation, inviting closer scrutiny of its implementation.

4. HFSS is making minimal impact

Comparing Scotland, where HFSS rules don’t apply, with the rest of the UK, reveals a harsh truth: legislation isn’t making a dent in cutting down on fat, sugar, and salt intake. The numbers tell a story of minimal difference, with percentage changes in these categories almost identical across the two regions. When all else is equal, except for HFSS legislation, the only clear verdict is that HFSS legislation is making little to no impact.

Obesity-related illnesses are costing the UK government around £6.1bn annually. With national debt at an all-time high and GDP growth stalling, the looming threat of stricter, punitive actions is very real.

Having transitioned from Halloween straight into the festive season and the run-up to Christmas, manufacturers and retailers must unite urgently to wield effective measures to reduce the UK’s fat, sugar, and salt intake before the legislation hammer falls – or worse, the spectre of taxation begins to loom large.