From 1 January to 31 December, legislation and government policy is set to make waves for the food and drink industry this year

EPR begins

The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) packaging reforms kick off on 1 January 2023. From this date, all eligible businesses will be required to start collecting data on their packaging waste.

The data collection will be mandatory from March 2023 and willneed to be reported from July. These requirements come ahead of the full rollout of the laws in 2024, when each business will become responsible for the packaging placed on the UK market – and will have to cover the cost of managing that waste. The collection of data will enable fees to be calculated for businesses ahead of that requirement.

Energy bill relief ends

For now at least, the energy bill relief for businesses is due to end from 1 April. The scheme provides a lifeline for many companies at risk of going bust due to the spike in energy prices, but the government has still failed to clarify exactly what happens next. Having promised to make an announcement by the end of 2022, ministers have now delayed this until the new year. The delay angered business groups, who have warned of the resulting uncertainty. “Disappointing news that government has also postponed announcement on future energy support,” said Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality. “Businesses are facing daily changing rates and contract decisions in January so certainty was really needed.”

Business rates revaluation

New business rates will take effect from 1 April, following an update to the rateable values of all business properties across England and Wales. Over half a million retail properties have been revalued based on their rental value. Bricks-and-mortar retailers are perhaps the biggest winners of all. They will see an average fall of 10% in their rateable value from April, according to property consultancy Colliers. For the likes of Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, their stores on Oxford Street will see their rateable value drop by almost 60% next April as part of the revaluation. But it’s not good news for everyone. The logistics sector will face an average 27.1% rise in rateable values – the largest increase of any sector.

National living wage rise

Millions of employees will receive a pay rise in April when the minimum wage goes up by 9.7% to £10.42 per hour. The increase comes against the backdrop of a looming recession and increasing energy rates and rising costs of living for every household. The Low Pay Commission, which advises the government, said rising wages helped protect living standards, which “in the current context is more important than ever”. It recognised the delicate balance at play, however. “For employers, rising wages are another bill alongside their energy, raw materials and other costs that can threaten jobs or may need to be passed on through higher prices,” it pointed out.


Food inflation eases

Labour costs may still be soaring, but most other inflationary pressures are coming down. Global transport costs have fallen back, commodity and fuel prices have eased, and after the mini-budget blunder, a degree of confidence has returned to UK markets. If Putin withdraws from Ukraine as some expect, then food and fuel prices could ease dramatically. Things may have to get worse before they get better, though. Food inflation is currently at about 15% and many are expecting it to top 20% in the early months of 2023. From spring, it could start to ease – largely because the year-on-year comparison will place it against skyrocketing prices a year earlier.

Land use framework

The government’s land use framework is due in the first half of 2023. It will look to set out how the UK can balance the demands of growing enough food, restoring biodiversity, and adapting to climate change, while building the infrastructure needed for a growing population. Currently there is no process in England to prioritise these pressures – meaning land is often bought up with no assessment of whether that land would be better used for other purposes. Defra secretary Thérèse Coffey has said the government will take a “balanced” view, including allowing grade 3B for agricultural use – judged to be moderate quality for cereals – to be open for use by solar farms.

Scotland DRS

Scotland’s deposit return scheme will go live on 16 August, the first of its kind in the UK. Once introduced, shoppers will pay a 20p deposit when they buy a drink that comes in a single-use container made of PET plastic, steel and aluminium, or glass. They will then get their money back when they return the empty container to one of the return points across the country.

Industry bodies have pushed back against the costs of the scheme, but the touted environmental benefits make a powerful case. Zero Waste Scotland estimates it will cut nearly 160,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year – the equivalent of 109,000 return flights from Edinburgh to New York.

HFSS promo ban

The next phase of restrictions on high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) foods are set to begin in October with a ban on multibuy promotions, like buy-one-get-one-free.

This particular restriction was set to launch a year earlier, but the government pushed it back to give time to “review and monitor the impact of the restrictions on the cost of living in light of an unprecedented global economic situation”. Campaigners still fear it could be scrapped, though. “There has obviously been a huge pushback from the industry but there is still huge support from the British public, and nobody believes that the government will tackle the cost of living crisis by getting rid of a junk food watershed and bans on bogofs,” said Barbara Crowther, director of the Children’s Health Campaign.

Brexit sunset clause

New Year’s Eve 2023 will see thousands of EU laws brought on to the UK statute book after Brexit “sunsetted” – unless they are individually signed off by ministers. The bill threatens up to 4,000 pieces of legislation and has been described as “reckless” by legal experts, who warn it gives unprecedented powers to ministers to personally decide which laws should remain. The move could have serious effects on environmental protections and workers’ rights, while the UK could also diverge from the EU on fundamental food safety measures.