Monthly Archives: April 2022

Is the food and drinks sector being regulated at the worst possible time_

Is the food and drinks sector being regulated at the worst possible time?

Is it the right time to regulate the food and drinks sector? GK Associate Daniele Schmidt-Fischer takes a look in our latest GK insights piece. 

With Covid fading from the Government’s agenda, ministers are again turning their attention to pre-pandemic legislative proposals. A sector that will be in the limelight will be the food and drinks industry, which will be incentivised to reformulate its products, reduce single-use plastic, and guide the consumer to make healthier choices. Given the regulatory uncertainty of the past few years, the industry should be well-prepared to weather the forthcoming provisions. However, the Government does not make it easy for a sector which is hit by a triple-whopper of pandemic recovery, Brexit-related labour and supply disruptions, and an avalanche of regulatory changes which assimilate the tobacco playbook.

On 1 April, the Government published guidance on the introduction of a tax on plastic packaging from April 2022. This will apply to plastic packaging manufactured in, or imported into the UK, that does not contain at least 30% recycled material. The charge for the tax, which only applies to “finished” plastic and mixed-plastic packaging components (containing mostly plastic by weight), at a rate of £200 per tonne, arises when the component is imported into or produced in the UK.

A few days later, on 6 April, new rules requiring calorie information to be displayed on menus and food labels came into force. The changes – which were approved by Parliament in 2021 – mean it is now a legal requirement for large businesses with more than 250 employees, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways, to display calorific information about non-prepacked food and soft drinks.

On the same day, the UK Department of Health and Social Care published guidance which includes the long awaited details on the forthcoming High in Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) food regulations, including restrictions on volume offers and new rules on placement and promotion. The regulations – Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1368) – confirmed that from 1 October 2022 provisions regarding the placement and promotion of HFSS products will affect manufacturers selling products direct to consumers and retailers in England with 50 or more employees. Additionally, HFSS products will be banned from tills and aisle bays to reduce impulse buys. The clampdown on store promotions was originally scheduled for April 2022 but a six-month delay was agreed last June to allow businesses more time to adapt. The new guidance has clarified that products which have volume promotions printed on the packet will be subject to a sell-through period of 12 months to October 2023.

There is more information about what constitutes a ‘relevant special offer’ such as a ‘meal deal’ or ‘dine in for two’ promotion, although the guidance states that each individual case will be assessed by enforcement officers. Businesses should carefully assess which products are caught by the restrictions and what changes will be required, for example, changes to store layout and/or website design, and changes to planned marketing and placement etc., in order to comply.

Adding to the above, the Government is due to publish a white paper on its National Food Strategy next month which is part of its recent efforts to build a food system fit for the 21st century. The white paper, which lays out plans for future legislation, is expected to draw heavily from a National Food Strategy review released in July 2021. The report, authored by Leon founder Henry Dimbleby, made a series of recommendations for transforming the food system, including new taxes on sugary and salty foods.

The regulations are part of the Ministerial wider strategy to tackle obesity, published in 2020, and follow last year’s Government’s consultation on the rules. The aim is to reduce excessive consumption of HFSS products that can lead to children becoming overweight and even obese. Further, the Government wants businesses to help people make healthier choices and join the efforts to reduce obesity,

The regulations are meant to curb the rising obesity rates, which the Government highlighted to be “one of the greatest long-term health challenges this country faces”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a sceptic of so called ‘nanny-state’ interventions, was said to have become passionate about the issue after his severe bout of Covid. The latest available data found that 36.2% of adults in England are overweight, with the impact of the pandemic on obesity levels still unknown. Accordingly, action remains essential, but critics are likely to argue whether now is the right time to introduce measures that will increase the industry’s costs and, hence, the prices paid by consumers – who are already facing a major cost-of-living crisis.” The Government itself found that the abovementioned regulations could hit businesses across the country by costs of over £1bn a year, while food associations also argue that these proposals are not expected to impact rates of obesity, thus nulling their sole purpose.

Overall, the regulatory ambitions are in good faith. However, during a time of worker shortages and supply disruptions, their timing is far from ideal. They put further pressure on businesses, which are likely to pass it on to the consumer in form of higher prices, all during a time when the public has become a lot more conscious about the cost of living, especially food.

GK Point of View - Tory and Labour Priorities in 2024

GK Point of View – David Laws on the Prime Minister’s survival

Perspective by David Laws, GK Adviser

The issue of whether Boris Johnson can remain as PM is firmly back on the agenda. The Prime Minister faces multiple risks over the six months ahead, which include: the local election results; possible additional “partygate” fines; the release of the Sue Gray report; and now an investigation by the Privileges Committee. Any one of these could trigger events that would end the PM’s time in Downing Street.

But the ever-resilient Mr. Johnson will still feel that he is in with a chance of recovering, and in a much better position than he was, just a few months ago. His predicament previously looked terminal, and Rishi Sunak was heavily tipped to take over. What changed? Well, three things. The police intervention scuppered the Gray report, and led to a “drip,drip” of problems rather than a cascade. Then, the invasion of Ukraine intervened – dominating the news agenda and causing Conservative MPs to think twice about the timing of any attempt to topple their leader. And, finally, Rishi Sunak’s star has faded dramatically: his wife’s non dom status, his failure to address the cost of living crisis, and his own partygate fine appear to have hugely diminished his appeal and his prospects. His odds of becoming PM have collapsed

So, Boris is still in place, and after each piece of bad news he will be able to argue that his MPs should defer judgement until some later occasion – the Gray report or perhaps now the Privileges Committee investigation, whose results could now be months away.

Johnson still faces considerable risks, but the odds of him surviving as PM into 2023 are perhaps now 60:40 in his favour. Not long ago, he looked overwhelmingly likely to lose office, so his circumstances are still much improved.

The PM’s predicament – still in power but widely discredited – and the collapse of support for the Chancellor, is all extremely good news for the Labour opposition. They have not, of course, secured the Johnson “scalp”, but they have avoided the situation in which the Conservative Party simply switched Boris for another election winner. A discredited PM and damaged Chancellor is a gift to an opposition which now looks capable of winning an election against an imploding government, but not strong enough perhaps to win on the basis of its own programme alone.

The odds in the bookies, where Rachel Reeves is tipped as the next Chancellor and Keir Starmer is well rated to be the next PM, indicates that Labour’s programme for government needs to be taken more seriously by the business and investor community than for perhaps a decade.

Although Starmer’s Labour Party is far more moderate than that of Corbyn’s, it would still likely make major changes to taxation, business and labour market regulation, public spending, and relations with the EU.

We will want to look in detail at this programme over the months ahead. An election does not need to be held until mid 2024, but investors will increasingly factor this into their calculations.

Is tech political_

Is tech political?


It is not unreasonable to take the position that technology firms – at the cutting edge of innovation through new product and service development – should steer well away from the complex world of politics. However this overlooks the reality that the policy and regulatory decisions underpinning the sector’s operating environment are by their nature, political, and therefore engaging proactively with policymakers to help shape that future environment makes good business sense.

The range of current Government workstreams on technology and digital issues is vast. From the future of the UK’s data and privacy regime, to innovation and digital regulation, online safety, competition in digital markets, cyber security, AI technologies, digital tax and online advertising – there is a significant amount of thinking going on across Government about how policy and regulation should be shaped in response and to promote growth in this and other sectors where ministers see opportunities for the UK to develop a competitive edge in the post-Brexit environment.

Indeed for SMEs or newer entrants to the market, the risks of sitting back are even greater, as established players and those with the loudest voices look to either maintain the status quo or shape the regulatory environment in their favour, with heavy handed regulators also getting involved and creating a stifling environment for growth.

The tech sector is the fastest growing in the UK economy, but there is no monopoly of wisdom within Government about how best to tackle the challenges it faces. The risks of unintended consequences are significant. It is essential therefore that technology firms communicate effectively about the value of tech and work with the Government to shape the policy and regulatory environment in a way that creates a positive environment for long-term growth. Tech is political – and so it ought to be. But it is essential that companies take advantage of opportunities to be part of the conversation within Government and beyond.

Our team has significant experience of advising technology companies, helping them to engage with policymakers on a range of digital policy issues. If you would be interested in a conversation, please contact Will Blackman at