UK to ban all online junk food advertising

The UK government has unveiled plans to implement a ban on online junk food advertising, to tackle the growing obesity crisis. But the new restrictions could have huge consequences for small businesses.

The new ban, which would be amongst the toughest digital restrictions in the world, would affect foods high in fat, salt and sugar. However, the restrictions could have serious repercussions for smaller businesses selling products like jams and cakes.

Firms would not be able to promote foods high in fat, salt or sugar in Facebook ads, paid search results on Google, text promotions and posts on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.

It is thought that the tougher regulations came after Boris Johnson’s hospitalisation from the coronavirus. Overweight people are at risk of more severe illness from Covid, or death. Research has found that one in three children leaving primary school are overweight, or obese, as are almost two-thirds of adults in England.

The consultation cited research finding that children were being exposed to increasing online junk food advertising. The government estimated that children aged under 16 were exposed to 15bn junk food adverts online in 2019, compared with an estimated 700m two years earlier.

However, a letter to the government signed by 800 food and drink manufacturers and 3,000 UK brands has called the plans ‘disproportionate’ and lacking evidence.

There are concerns that the new rules could have huge complications for smaller businesses who sell products high in fat, salt or sugar, but not necessarily aimed at children. For example the restrictions could affect a huge range of companies including; bakers, makers of preserves like jams and chutneys, chocolatiers, honey farmers, and many more.

Many small businesses rely on social media and online advertising to grow their businesses, partly due to the cost-effective nature of the platforms and the ability to target campaigns to avoid wastage.

Are you concerned that your business could be affected by the new plans? If you would like to chat about alternative marketing options, please get in touch with our friendly team.

What do you think about the new plans? Are they needed to protect young peoples’ health? Or do you think they will disproportionately affect small businesses?


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