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Calorie labelling: What do leisure and hospitality businesses need to know?

By Kay McMenamin | May 30, 2022

What is the new legislation and how can you mitigate the impact and risks in the leisure and hospitality space?
Risk Management Consulting

Government moves to introduce calories labelling to the out-of-home food and drink sector1 have caused widespread disruption amongst leisure and hospitality (L & H) organisations. Some fear this fresh roll of red tape – which follows the introduction last year of mandatory of ingredient lists and allergen labelling on foods – could derail the recovery only just gaining momentum after the devastation the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked on the sector.2

In this Q & A, we examine what the new rules require of which businesses, before considering what measures L & H organisations might take to manage the costs and risks at play.

What are the new rules?

New legislation that came into effect on 6 April 2022 requires some businesses selling food to:

  • display the energy content of the food in kilocalories (kcal)
  • reference the size of the portion to which the calorie information relates
  • display the statement ‘adults need around 2000 kcal a day’.

Impacted businesses must also ensure that calorie information, the appropriate reference to portion size, and the statement of daily calorie needs is displayed clearly and prominently at the ‘point of choice’ for the customer, which is considered any place where customers choose what food to buy.

For businesses where consumers may choose their food in several locations, such as from a menu on the premises, a menu display case, or online menu, the requirement is to provide calorie information at each of these points of choice.

What businesses are impacted by calorie labelling rules?

While there are some exceptions, the requirement to calorie label extends to any business with 250 or more employees selling non-prepacked food or drink suitable for immediate consumption by the person who buys it.

The types of businesses covered by the new requirements include:

  • restaurants, fast food outlets, cafes, pubs and supermarkets
  • home delivery services and third-party apps selling food that is in scope of the rules
  • cafes and takeaways within larger shops and venues, such as supermarkets, department stores, and entertainment venues, such as cinemas
  • specialist food stores, delicatessens, sweet shops and bakeries
  • contract caterers, for example, those supplying events and canteens
  • domestic transport businesses including planes, trains and ferries.

What food is in scope of the new regulations?

Food in scope of the rules is that sold in a form ‘suitable for immediate consumption’ and is not prepacked. Food is considered ‘suitable for immediate consumption’ if it is either:

  • offered for sale for consumption on the premises on which it is sold
  • offered for sale for consumption off the premises and does not require any preparation by the consumer before it is consumed.

Also in scope of the legislation are alcoholic drinks under 1.2% alcohol by volume (ABV).

There are certain exemptions from the calorie labelling rules. These include food that’s not on the menu which in nevertheless requested by customers, and food that’s on the menu only temporarily, specifically for fewer than 30 consecutive days and a total of 30 days in any year.

What impact will calorie labelling have on customer behaviour?

While the picture is currently unclear, we might expect calorie labelling to skew consumer choice in favour of less caloric menu options. The British Medical Journal also recently suggested calorie labelling could encourage food outlets to reduce the calorie content of their foods1, citing a 2019 study that examined differences between the energy and nutritional content of menu items served by popular U.K. chain restaurants that had undertaken voluntary menu labelling at that time, compared to those without nutritional labelling.2

More broadly, calorie labelling on out-of-home food could introduce an unwanted level of awareness that may detract from consumer pleasure around eating out. Arguably, it’s likely more consumers may experience feelings of guilt around enjoying caloric choices, even when doing so occasionally and as part of a balanced diet.

There are also fears people with eating disorders may be adversely impacted by the new information at the point of choice.3 In response to this, it was reported Wagamama had made moves to avoid potential harm to sufferers, with CEO Thomas Heier telling reporters: “After two years of working with our charity partners Young Minds, disordered eating for young people is something we're acutely aware of. As calories become a legal necessity for all restaurants, we've decided to offer a non-calorie menu for guests suffering with a challenging relationship with food.”4

The regulations do permit businesses to provide a menu without the required calorie information at ‘the express request of the customer’, so having this available might be considered to mitigate the chances of putting customers with eating disorders at risk of potential psychological harm.

How are L&H businesses managing the day-to-day impact of calorie labelling?

Given the exemptions around temporary menu items, WTW understands some businesses are looking to reduce the disruption and associated costs of the rules through a greater emphasis on specials and seasonal, changing menus. Others are currently outsourcing the entire calorie-labelling enterprise, handing over the responsibility for this and ensuring all required elements are up to date, visible and meeting the new regulations to a trusted partner or consultancy.

What adaptations to managing risk might calorie labelling entail for L&H businesses?

Whether you work with a specialist partner to meet your calorie labelling obligations or not, the new rules have implications for audit and compliance, as well recordkeeping and policies.

There might also be reputational risks to consider, with some restaurants already singled out in the media for having the most calorific options. Generally speaking, we would recommend the impact of calorie labelling should be factored into the operational elements of your organisation’s risk register. You may want to engage with risk leaders within the business or external experts to help you articulate and quantify the risks.

If you need support managing the risks of food and drink regulations in your business, get in touch.







Leisure and Hospitality Practice Leader – London WTW

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