Restricting promotions of food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt: consultation

The consultation closes on 23 September 2022. If you are unable to respond by then, please contact us and complete and send the respondent information form (see supporting documents) to Responses received up to 30 September will be accepted and included in the analysis of this consultation.


21. As we set out in our 2018 Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan (the Delivery Plan), to protect public health, we want to create a Scotland where everyone eats well and has a healthy weight.

22. Approximately two out of three adults in Scotland are living with overweight or obesity. In 2019, 70% of adults in the most deprived areas of Scotland were living with overweight or obesity, compared to 60% of adults in the least deprived areas. A higher prevalence of excess weight[6] is also seen in some minority ethnic groups. Associated health risks occur at a lower levels of excess weight in these groups compared with other groups. There is also a higher prevalence of children at risk of overweight or obesity in the most deprived areas (35%) compared to in the least deprived areas (22%).

23. As a nation we have consistently not met our dietary goals since they were set in 1996. These goals describe, in nutritional terms, the diet that will improve and support the health of the Scottish population. Our diet remains too high in calories, fat, sugar and salt which can have serious consequences for our health.

24. To protect public health, we need change that supports healthier eating and healthy weight. In our Delivery Plan, we outlined five key outcomes to help realise our vision:

  • Children have the best start in life – they eat well and have a healthy weight; reaffirmed in Programme for Government 2021/22, this includes aiming to halve childhood obesity by 2030
  • The food environment supports healthier choices
  • People have access to effective weight management services
  • Leaders across all sectors promote healthy diet and weight
  • Diet-related health inequalities are reduced.

25. As part of a wide range of action to improve diet and ensure everyone is a healthy weight. This consultation focuses on restricting promotions of unhealthier food and drink at the point of purchase. This is when people make their decisions about what and how much to buy and to consume, for themselves as well as for their families. In particular, it seeks to reduce the purchase (and consumption) of food and drink that is high in fat, sugar or salt, given the public health harm associated with their overconsumption. We anticipate such action will help deliver outcomes 1, 2 and 5 of our Delivery Plan.

Previous consultations

26. In 2018/19, following a commitment in our Delivery Plan, we publically consulted on proposals to restrict the promotion and marketing of targeted food and drink ('food') high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS) where they are sold to the public. The consultation ran from 2 October 2018 to 9 January 2019. An analysis of the consultation was published in September 2019. A previous consultation in 2017/18 included questions on restricting promotions. An analysis of this was published in April 2018.

27. There was general support in the 2018/19 consultation for the overarching aim of the policy. But views on the specific proposals set out in the consultation were more mixed:

  • Non-industry respondents were generally supportive of the proposals and considered them necessary in light of the scale of the public health challenge. Some suggested that the proposals should go further and target a wider range of foods and promotion types and limit exemptions.
  • Industry respondents generally disagreed with the approach or did not state a specific view. Key concerns raised included: the potential negative impact on businesses generally and specifically on smaller and specialist businesses; and concern about conflict with and the undermining of existing approaches, such as reformulation.
  • Individuals' views were mixed but supportive overall.

Wider context

28. There have been significant changes since our 2018/19 consultation. A Bill on Restricting Foods Promotions was due to be introduced during the last session (session 5, 2020/21) of the Scottish Parliament. The Bill was paused recognising the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food and drink industries and on consumer behaviour. Our exit from the European Union remains an ongoing consideration for the food and drink industry. Further, the current increasing cost of living is impacting on consumers and businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated existing diet related health inequalities[7],[8].

29. The UK Government put in place regulations to restrict the promotion of targeted HFSS foods by location and volume price in England in The Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1368). Made on 2 December 2021, the regulations are due to come into force on 1 October 2022. However, the UK Government has announced that restrictions on volume price promotions will be delayed by 12 months. This means that only the restrictions on the location of targeted HFSS foods will come into force as planned on 1 October 2022. (The UK Government also noted that new regulations will be introduced to delay the restriction of volume price promotions.)

30. On 9 June, the Welsh Government published its Healthy Food Environment consultation. The promotions proposals contained in this wider consultation include restricting value promotions, including multi-buy, temporary price reductions and meal deals, and location promotions, including at checkouts and end of aisles, on HFSS foods. The Wales consultation closes on 1 September.

31. In September 2021, we published our Out of Home Action Plan. This sets out a series of measures to support people to make healthier and more informed choices when eating out of home or ordering in. On 8 April this year, we published a consultation paper on proposals to introduce mandatory calorie labelling in the out of home sector. This consultation closes on 1 July 2022.

32. The Good Food Nation Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in October 2021. It is the foundation upon which Scotland will build a Good Food Nation. The Bill provides a framework for clear, consistent and coherent future Scottish food policy and supports cross Government action we are already undertaking to deliver our Good Food Nation ambition by ensuring that people are supported to make healthier choices.

33. Measures to restrict in-store promotion and marketing of HFSS foods are intended to complement measures at UK[9],[10] and Scottish[11] levels to encourage reformulation to reduce the calorie, salt and sugar content of HFSS foods, including by reducing portion sizes.

34. At both national and local level, the Scottish Government is taking wide ranging action to improve diet and support people to be a healthy weight. This includes, among other things, nutritional standards to support healthier food provision in schools, free school meals, information, advice and support for families through Parent Club and Best Start Foods, and improving availability of healthier food in local communities through the Scottish Grocers Federation Healthy Living Programme.

This consultation paper

35. In 2021-22 Programme for Government, the Scottish Government committed to bring forward legislation during this Parliament to restrict 'unhealthier food and drink promotions'.

36. The primary aim of the policy is to reduce the public health harms associated with the excess consumption of calories, fat, sugar and salt, including the risks of developing type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer and other conditions such as cardiovascular disease. We are also aware of the need to reduce diet-related health inequalities, including in relation to socioeconomic disadvantage, and for the policy to support our aim to halve childhood obesity by 2030.

37. To progress these aims, we propose to restrict the promotion of HFSS foods where these are sold to the public, including across retail and out of home settings. The HFSS foods we are considering targeting include, among other things, confectionery, cakes, crisps, savoury snacks and soft drinks with added sugar. The promotion types we are considering restricting include, among other things, multi-buys and positioning restrictions, such as at checkouts and front of store.

38. In light of the changes in context, we are consulting again to inform and assist with the development and impact assessment of this policy. This will help us to assess whether the proposed measures are proportionate as well as to consider their impact on health inequalities. This consultation also provides a chance for us to hear views on our proposals in the context of the UK Government regulations for England and the proposals for Wales set out in the recent Welsh Government consultation paper. This will help us consider in more detail the potential for policy consistency where that is in Scotland's best interests.

39. In this consultation, we are seeking views on proposals to restrict promotions on the following issues:

  • Introducing restrictions on promotions of additional food categories beyond so-called 'discretionary foods' (foods that provide little or no nutritional benefit and are not necessary for a healthy diet)
  • Types of promotions that should be restricted
  • Places where restrictions should apply, including possible exemptions
  • Enforcement and implementation of the proposed restrictions
  • Impact on business and health inequalities
  • Potential for policy consistency with the equivalent UK Government restrictions for England and the proposals for Wales set out in the recent Welsh Government consultation paper.

40. Further information on the evidence underpinning our proposals is set out in the Evidence Summary.

41. Information on the Scottish Government consultation process and how to respond to the consultation is set out in Annex A.

42. Key publications which have informed the development of this policy are at Annex B.

43. A glossary of terms is at Annex C.



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