HFSS: Not just a cumbersome acronym, but a hurdle at the end of what has been a long hurdle race for grocery retail. For both brands and retailers, there are fears about the changes brought about by the new regulations. According to the IGD, no less than 43% say they do not feel prepared. However, we cannot miss the opportunities that a revolution like this could bring.
As the implementation date nears, we can be grateful that the retail sector is well equipped to manage change – a particularly impressive achievement after the past two years. Notably, several retailers have proactively set up a variety of stores to test different approaches to the legislation. Among the handful of test stores spotted by the trade press and other grocery fanatics, we saw some clever solutions and innovations to give us an idea of what the future might look like.
Changes to the final space pose perhaps the biggest challenge for retailers and brands, but solutions are emerging. A quick win that retailers are pricing in is how HFSS-compliant BWS, household, or grocery lines can fill that space. These categories are attractive to retailers from an operational standpoint because products are often presented in bulk, allowing pallets to be displayed on the ends. Additionally, using this space allows retailers to demonstrate the value of key products to customers, especially those from larger households who are looking for larger purchases.
That doesn’t mean we’ll be walking down a center aisle full of pallets like a wholesaler, though. Merchandising teams are also looking for other options. Expect to see ends made up of composite elements: off-the-shelf motor paddles, HFSS-compliant products on sale, and new permanent signage or branded areas. The latter could lead to exciting changes in retail media – could we see digital screens at the end of aisles or permanent signage for brands? Sainsbury’s erected permanent signage linked to its brand communications at the end of the aisle. So brands need to think about how they can leverage these types of activations in the future.
The changes to what is possible for marks at the ends of aisles seem monumental, given that some marks will now only end up in aisles. For some, especially those who are regulars, it may sound like a death knell. Yet there are solutions.
For big brands, brand blocking will be key. Some retailers have added new shelving units in the aisle with taller shelves that allow more SRP (ready-to-use packaging) stocked with key SKUs to be marketed. Using Cadbury and its distinctive purple, Tesco tested this with the addition of a yellow frame around the shelf – a simple visual cue to shoppers already ready to look for the color yellow as a sign of value in their stores.
Creating a visual spectacle around those shelves with floor stickers, a digital screen or bringing it into the digital sphere with an AR filter will create exciting and dynamic destinations in the aisles. This does not mean that small brands will be eclipsed, quite the contrary. With increasing traffic in the aisles in categories such as confectionery, which generally trade well, there is an opportunity for smaller brands.
Business marketing strategies need to be reviewed to ensure that brands and all their products have a solid plan to deal with these changes. Buyers may not understand a planogram, but they will feel the changes throughout their typical buying journey. Brands can succeed by staying top of mind, helping shoppers, and delivering bold, thoughtful point-of-sale executions or merchandising solutions. More opportunities will arise as the HFSS changes begin to take effect, and already retailers are testing other new solutions such as extended electrical aisles and alternative convenience planograms.
The issues of testing and getting started with implementation — not to mention still-mock e-commerce questions — will continue for the rest of 2022. In the meantime, brands should get a head start. Now is the time to test different approaches, reconsider business marketing strategies and take a positive and proactive approach. From ends to aisles, the changes will be drastic, but the opportunities are there.