Reducing health harms of foods high in fat, sugar, or salt: consultation analysis

Independent analysis of the responses to the consultation on proposals to restrict the promotion and marketing of foods high in fat, sugar, or salt, and have little to no nutritional benefit.

6. Places the restrictions would apply (Qs 7-8)

6.1. The consultation paper proposed applying the restrictions to any place where the targeted foods are sold in the course of business, including to retail and Out of Home sectors and other outlets where sales are made to the public. Views were collected on (i) whether restrictions should apply as above, except where they are not sold in the course of business, and (ii) whether and to what extent restrictions should be applied online.

Inclusion of any place where targeted foods are sold to the public 

6.2. In addition to the places for inclusion noted above, the consultation paper proposed to not include the following types of places in the restrictions: 

  • wholesale outlets where sales are only to trade because any promotion or marketing would not directly encourage purchases by the public; and
  • activities such as charity ‘bake sales’ because they are not conducted in the course of business. 

6.3. Respondents were asked if they agreed with this definition of the places to which the restrictions would apply. 

Question 7: Should the restrictions apply to any place where targeted foods are sold to the public, except where they are not sold in the course of business (e.g. charity bake sales)?


6.4. Close to three-fifths (58%) of organisation respondents agreed that restrictions should apply to any place where targeted foods are sold to the public, except where they are not sold in the course of business. A fifth (20%) did not provide a tick box answer, and 14% disagreed. Meanwhile, just over half (51%) of individual respondents agreed, and two-fifths (40%) disagreed. The figures are displayed in Table 6.1.

Table 6.1 Responses to question 7

Answer Organisations Individuals
n % n %
Yes 55 58% 324 51%
No 13 14% 255 40%
Don’t know 7 7% 29 5%
Not answered 19 20% 19 3%
Conflicting answers[41] 0 0% 5 1%
Total 94 100% 632 100%

Organisation respondents overview

6.5. Breaking down the findings further from the responses in the table above, it was possible to see different views in the responses from different types of organisation. Over two-thirds (69%) of the non-industry organisation respondents and over two-fifths (44%) of the industry organisation respondents agreed with the approach. Disagreement was relatively low (13% of non-industry and 15% of industry organisations). However, more than a third (36%) of industry organisation respondents did not select a tick box answer. The full breakdown by organisation is provided in Annex 2, Table A2.8.

Agreement with the places to apply the restrictions

6.6. Agreement with the proposal for restrictions to apply to any place where targeted foods are sold to the public centered on the belief that to be effective, the restrictions should apply equally. Agreement was present across all respondent types – notably some industry organisation respondents agreed that there should be a ‘level playing field’.

6.7. Few respondents (few public sector respondents and few individual respondents) emphasised places that they considered should be included within restrictions. Most commonly:

  • Wholesale – reasons for this included: concern about exemptions; concern that the public may be admitted; and concern that purchases by retail from wholesale influences what is subsequently sold to the public;
  • Food outlets on public transport and at transport hubs;
  • Sports venues;
  • Vending machines; and
  • Hospitals.

6.8. Few individual respondents specifically acknowledged the merit of excluding charity bake sales, which were felt to be unlikely to be a significant contributor to the problem. Although, one public sector respondent suggested that charity bake sales should be encouraged to shift to a healthier focus.

6.9. Few of the respondents (individuals and one public sector respondent) that agreed with the approach noted concern for small and specialist businesses. 

Disagreement with the places to apply the restrictions

6.10. Many of the individual respondents that disagreed with the places to apply the restrictions did so on the basis that they disagree with the overall proposal to implement mandatory measures to restrict the marketing and promotion of HFSS foods.

6.11. Few of the respondents that disagreed with the places to apply the restrictions (few individuals and few industry representative bodies) but also few of the respondents that answered another way i.e. agreed, didn’t know or didn’t give a tick box answer (few individuals, an industry representative body, two public sector and one third sector respondent) held concerns about small independent and specialist shops. Specifically, these shops should be able to promote their products and that they may struggle to comply with some of the restrictions due to space issues. There was suggestion that there may be a disproportionate impact on smaller niche local suppliers and those in rural areas who may be important for local economies and attract visitors to the area. More flexibility in the approach for small shops was advocated by one third sector respondent, especially in rural areas where space is limited and the business provides important community functions.

6.12. Few individual respondents noted a preference for only targeting the supermarkets (as opposed to other types of food retailers and outlets), although another few respondents (few individuals and a public sector respondent) noted that if only major retailers were targeted the health inequality gap may widen, because people from deprived areas and those on a low income are more likely to be reliant on convenience stores.


6.13. Other specific concerns about the places indicated for inclusion and exclusions most commonly highlighted (but by few respondents) were:

  • Individual respondents and one manufacturer respondent expressed concern about the impact of restrictions generally on business and the economy;
  • Individual respondents suggested the inclusion of charity events on the basis that selling unhealthy foods should make them subject to the same restrictions as other places; and one retailer that held similar concerns suggested that if there is evidence to demonstrate that these events make up a minimal volume of discretionary foods purchases then that evidence should be shared.
  • One third sector respondent noted concern about the complexity of this approach and conflict between existing programmes such as the Food Tourism Action Plan; and
  • One retailer respondent questioned whether the evidence presented was sufficient to include the Out of Home sector.

6.14. Additionally, few individual respondents and few public sector respondents questioned whether one-off events such as concerts and markets, and other venues such as tuck shops and community/sports centres with vending machines would be included or excluded from restrictions.

Online restrictions  

6.15. The consultation paper recognised that not all of the proposed restrictions have a like-for-like online equivalent, but that there may be scope to mirror these online. Respondents were asked to comment on whether and to what extent restrictions should be applied online.

Question 8: Please comment on whether, and if so to what extent, restrictions should be applied online.


6.16. Overall 596 respondents gave a specific response to the question (i.e. excluding blanks, ‘no comment’ and ‘don’t know’ answers). Although this was an open question (i.e. not a tick box question), written explanations were analysed to try to quantify what proportion indicated overall agreement and disagreement with the approach. It is important to note that a number of respondents gave no overall indication, but instead made a specific point or points in relation to the content of the approach. Therefore their overall stance (if indeed they had one) for this question is not known. That said, the level of respondents giving no overall indication is much lower than for other open questions; some caution however is needed when interpreting the figures below.

6.17. Most organisation respondents (over four-fifths) gave a written explanation that indicated the restrictions were needed online, less than a tenth indicated disagreement and just under a tenth gave no overall indication. Among individual respondents the proportion indicating agreement and disagreement were very similar – just above two-fifths, and over a tenth gave no overall indication but made a specific point in relation to the question.

6.18. Breaking down the organisation respondents described above, agreement with online restrictions was very high (over four-fifths) among non-industry organisation respondents, but also high (over three-quarters) among industry organisation respondents.

Agreement with online restrictions

6.19. Many of those agreeing that restrictions should apply online simply stated the fact without providing further detail on their reasoning. Some (including all respondent types) indicated that for the policy to be effective it was necessary to have consistency between the physical and online environment; of which many indicated that the restrictions should be the ‘same’ or equivalent. Few cautioned that this might be difficult to enforce but thought it was needed nonetheless. 

6.20. Few respondents (few manufacturers and few industry representative bodies) noted that they were against restrictions, but, if they were to be introduced, there should be consistency between online and in-store environments. 

6.21. One public sector respondent noted that if restrictions were not applied online, marketing might increasingly target young people whose use of the internet is increasing – for example, to order takeaways.

Disagreement with online restrictions

6.22. Many of the individual respondents that disagreed with online restrictions did so due to disagreeing with the overall proposal of introducing mandatory restrictions. 

6.23. Few of the individual respondents that disagreed with online restrictions thought they should not be applied as they would be difficult to enforce, not least due to many websites and companies being based outside Scotland. Few thought that they were simply not needed since online purchases do not involve the same level of impulse and temptation that may affect decision making in-store.

6.24. While few organisation respondents indicated disagreement with online restrictions, the main reason expressed was disagreement with the proposed restrictions in any circumstances. One industry representative body respondent highlighted that the revenue generated from advertising is vital for industry. They considered the targeting of online adverts to be disproportionate on the basis that it would bring additional companies within the scope of the restrictions.

Other points

6.25. Respondents that gave no overall indication of their agreement or disagreement with online restrictions tended to flag one or more specific points. Responses varied widely but the most frequent suggestions and comments offered by individual respondent (but each by few) included:

  • Restricting pop ups, banners and other online adverts;
  • Restricting multi-buys online; and
  • Providing warnings/information when targeted foods are selected.

6.26. Few industry organisation respondents raised the following issues:

  • Clarification is needed on how online restrictions could be enforced;
  • Clarification is needed on what types of restrictions would be applied online;
  • Segregating the online grocery market according to geographic borders would be very difficult and potentially disadvantage Scottish customers and therefore efforts would need to be implemented across the UK.



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