Retailers condemn plans to restrict promotions on junk food

Retailers would be restricted from promotions on products high in sugar, salt or fat.
Retailers would be restricted from promotions on products high in sugar, salt or fat.
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Retailers have condemned plans to stop supermarkets from promoting foods high in sugar, salt and fat in a bid to tackle the obesity crisis.

Experts from bodies which represent retailers north of the body said that the moves proposed by the Scottish Government could hit companies hard, resulting in job losses.

The Scottish Grocer’s Federation said that plans to restrict grocery promotions such as multibuys in stores for such foods were “lacking in evidence, badly thought through and unenforceable”, while the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) also said it had concerns over the plans and urged the government to delay any measures which might disrupt the grocery market even further ahead of a potential no-deal Brexit.

The Food and Drink Federation Scotland warned that one member alone - described as an “iconic Scottish brand” - could lose £1 million in sales as a direct result of such measures, which it said would “likely result in major redundancies”.

The comments were made in response to a consultation issued by the government at the end of last year.

The SRC said that if the UK leaves the EU “in a disorderly manner”, that would have “immense consequences for food and drink retailers”.

It added: “In that event we would strongly urge the Scottish Government to defer moving forward on these proposals (and indeed other policy measures which add burdens to the food and drink industry) until a stable supply chain is restored.”

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy at the SRC, said: “We want to work with Government to help our customers through proportionate evidence-based policies, which establish a level playing field and effectively engage with the challenge of obesity. As these proposals, and specific definitions, are developed we hope to see a practical and flexible approach taken, which would allow exemptions for specific seasonal promotions and the promotion of healthier products within a category.

“However, we have some significant concerns. There is a dearth of detail over the exact definition of products, categories, and store areas. We also oppose proposals to limit the advertisement of temporary price promotions. We don’t believe there is evidence which shows these promotions of value encourage over-consumption, and we are not persuaded the case has been made that would be a proportionate intervention in the market.”

John Lee, head of public affairs at the SGF, said: “Retailers should be allowed to use a wide range of promotions to ensure they stay competitive and provide customers with the value for money they have come to expect.”

David Thomson, chief executive of Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland, said: “We are deeply disappointed that the Scottish Government is pressing ahead with legislation to restrict food and drink promotions. Especially since there is no evidence of the effectiveness of these measures in tackling obesity. The promotion to adults of all foods is a fundamental commercial freedom.”

He added: “Iconic Scottish brands who sell more of their products in Scotland will be disproportionately affected by restrictions, such as banning of end of floor displays and free samples.”