By Kunal Sawhney, CEO of Kalkine (www.kalkine.co.uk)
The UK’s hospitality sector has seen a lot of turbulence since the beginning of the pandemic. Closure or reduced capacity, supply chain, Brexit, HGV driver shortages and higher raw material, wages and utility bills have severely hurt the hospitality sector.
Things started improving after the restrictions were eased completely, but there is something in the offing that could again increase the hardship of the sector.A new law – Calorie Labelling (Out of Home Sector) is all set to come into force in the month of April.
WHAT IS NEW CALORIE LABELLING LEGISLATION?
As per the new law, the calories information needs to be mandatorily displayed in menus, online menus, display labels and menu boards for all the businesses employing 250 or more people.
The out for home sector consists of businesses such as takeaways, estaurants and cafes, where food and drink are prepared for immediate consumption, on or off the premises. Unlike the retail sector which was required to mention nutritional information with calories content on food items, it sold non-prepacked food to out for home sector and was not required to display nutritional information.
But, under the new legislation out of home sector businesses need to list all the calories counts on non-pre-packed food and drinks to help consumers make healthier decisions, be informed and encourage businesses to reformulate the food and drink they offer and provide healthier options to customers.
The UK trade body, UKHospitality is ensuring the sector is prepared for the new regulation and has launched guidance for new calorie labelling legislation, which will be available to anyone in the sector, not just UKHospitality members.
WHAT COULD BE THE NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE SECTOR?
The government has said that it will review the implementation of the regulation within five years of it coming into force and may extend it to smaller businesses later.
Noncompliance can initially result in improvement notice. If still, the business does not act, then a formal notice will be issued.The enforcement authority may impose a civil sanction under the Regulatory and Sanctions Act 2008 (RESA) of a fixed monetary penalty (FMP) of £2,500 as an alternative to criminal prosecution.
PROS AND CONS OF NEW CALORIES LABELLING
No regulation is fit for all or can suit every business, the new calories labelling regulation has its own pros and cons. It may give the customer a better impression of how healthy a product may be and the composition of food for better planning of diet. Also, it can play an important role in government’s healthy weight strategy and will contribute towards achieving countries aim to halve childhood obesity by 2030.
On the other hand, the regulation will increase the costs that may affect the sector’s recovery. Also, it can mislead people and may influence their decisions as the food item may be good in one certain aspect but may be harmful in others.
WHAT DOES THE SECTOR EXPECT?
The implementation of the new regulation is coming at a time when the sector is fully distressed.The recovery of the sector is still low with regularly emerging new variants of viruses. Moreover, the sector is going to have a financial hit with an increase in Value-Added-Tax (VAT), from 12.5% to 20%. Additionally, there is an expected increase in debt, business rates and labour costs in April, which will further increase challenges for the UK’s hospitality sector.
Calorie labelling indeed has some crucial advantages, but the timing of the imposition of the new regulation is not apt when the industry is trying to gain some ground from the ravages of the pandemic, and it could be delayed so that the industry is fully prepared to tackle it effectively.