With less than one week to go until new labelling legislation comes into force, the food industry has just a short window of opportunity to act and ensure it can meet the new guidelines next week. These new laws, which take effect on 6 April 2022, require businesses across England with more than 250 employees, to display the calorie content of the food and drink they sell to their customers. Initially, this will affect cafes, pubs, restaurants and take-away food services. However, the Government is encouraging smaller businesses to include calorie labelling voluntarily and has not ruled out the possibility of extending the legislation in the future to encompass all food and drink operators.
From 6 April 2022, those businesses that meet the criteria will need to display calories (energy of food sold), as well as ensure portion sizing is clear and correlates to the displayed calorie data. Those affected will also need to display a statement of recommended daily calorie intake.
With statistics [link] revealing that 28% of adults in England are obese, and a further 36% overweight, the new legislation, which is part of a government initiative to tackle obesity, is designed to help people make more informed choices about what they eat; and this is not without its detractors. Many dieticians have been very vocal about the negative impact this legislation could possibly have on people struggling with eating disorders, for example.
There is also added confusion around which companies are affected by this legislation, for example, the new laws don’t currently include charities, food that is offered free of charge, or offered to under 18’s in schools. As such, many hospitality businesses are still seeking clarity on the information they need to bring these requirements into practice.
For many operating in the food sector, labelling the calorie content of food will be a new concept entirely. In most cases it will fundamentally re-shape the way businesses operate on a day-to-day basis. In a sector already struggling to recover from the impact of the pandemic, the adoption of these rules will inevitably bring challenges. Adding pressures around cost and workload, businesses are expected to invest their time, money and resources into making sure that suppliers provide the correct nutritional information and that this is kept up to date alongside the maintenance of recipe data.
Without the right expertise, rolling out new systems and processes around legislative change, can be a minefield. For some, the impact could involve full reprints of menus, new signage, updating of websites and associated apps, not to mention promotional materials, payment apps and the overall cost of calculating the calorie data itself.
Technology will be instrumental in helping businesses streamline the creation and development of labelling, as well as manage requirements around compliance. At the moment, the Client Success team at Zupa have been busy working with suppliers, investing time in gathering accurate nutritional and calorie information as well as helping those suppliers who have the capability to integrate with systems such as Erudus, a market leading source of accurate allergy, nutritional and technical product data, populated by the food industry, to ensure the correct data is uploaded.
There is an education gap to be filled within the sector and it is important that businesses work with an experienced partner that can help them to manage the process seamlessly. Whether that is managing nutritional data with suppliers, providing support around labelling, recipe and menu publishing or associated staff training, keeping on top of the changes from the outset will free up much needed resource and will make lives easier in the long run.
As we approach deadline – and beyond - the team at Zupa will continue to focus on its supplier community to ensure data is automatically updated, should any products be affected by future changes. Zupa is also working closely with its new suppliers, particularly those smaller businesses who do not have access to the same databases and insight as their larger counterparts.
While it is difficult to argue against any legislation that gives consumers more information and protects those people who suffer with allergies and intolerances to certain foods, these changes will dramatically affect the way companies operate day to day. Many businesses are still struggling with staff recruitment and retention as a result of Covid and Brexit, so teams are continually having to do more with less. Keeping up with new regulations is costly and time intensive – and at the moment it calls on resource that many businesses simply don’t have. Fit for purpose technology will pave the way to freeing up some of that resource, alleviating pressure and allowing staff to focus on their core roles.
Further reading Calorie labelling in the out of home sector: implementation guidance - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Photo: Anna Tukhfatullina, Unsplash