food price inflation has continued to rise. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) flagged big rises in sugar and alcohol in the past month, as well as fruit and vegetables.
Retail analysts Kantar showed grocery price inflation in the UK hit a fresh record high of 16.7% in the four weeks to 22 January, adding nearly £800 to the typical annual shopping bill, with the price of milk, eggs and dog food rising fastest.
The monthly report also showed that no- and low-alcohol beer sales volumes rose 3% year on year, as many people embraced dry January. Veganuary also made an impact, as sales of supermarket own-label ranges labelled as plant-based or vegan jumped by 21%.
Competition & Markets Authority – Unit Pricing Investigation
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) this week started a programme of work looking into unit pricing practices online and in-store in the groceries sector.
Unit pricing shows how much a particular product costs by weight or volume, which helps people identify best value for money.
Retailers are legally required to provide unit pricing on most items, under the Price Marking Order 2004.
This CMA project follows the 2015 Groceries Super-complaint Pricing practices in the groceries market (publishing.service.gov.uk) where they previously considered pricing and promotional practices in the groceries market and concluded that complexities and inconsistencies with unit pricing may prevent people from spotting which deal gives them the best value.
- different interpretations of legibility of unit prices amongst retailers
- inconsistencies with how retailers present unit prices for similar products
- inconsistencies with how retailers present unit prices for products on promotion
This led to a series of recommendations to improve unit pricing in supermarkets – but the legislation itself wasn’t changed
A Which? investigation in August 2022 found that unit pricing is still often unclear, inconsistent or absent. Issues identified by Which? include:
- differing units used for the same types of items
- confusing terminology
- missing unit pricing
- unit pricing that was hard to read
- no unit pricing on multibuys
- no unit pricing on loyalty prices.
The new CMA project will consider the following:
- if the unit pricing issues identified during the 2015 Super-complaint remain
- compliance with the law by retailers
- consumer awareness and use of unit pricing information
The CMA will provide an update on the case later in 2023.
Eggs, Bird Flu & End of ‘Free Range’ Labelling
From 1 Feb 2023 eggs originating from free range flocks in the east of England - Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex - will need to be labelled as barn eggs due to the regional housing order made on 12 October 2022 and the end of the 16-week grace period.
A subsequent England-wide mandatory housing order issued on 7 November 2022 as a result of a growing number of avian influenza cases means this will then apply to the rest of England from 27 February.
Where other options are not feasible, such as over-stickering or marketing eggs in “barn reared” egg boxes, industry will be allowed the use of direct print to pack or an affixed label on free-range boxes to communicate to consumers that the eggs have come from hens that are now barn reared. Defra have confirmed the labelling will remain in place until the mandatory housing order is lifted.
Warnings on alcohol in Ireland
The date for which the European Commission to object has now passed and draft regulations, are being refined under Ireland’s Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018, Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 (irishstatutebook.ie) which will mean alcohol carrying health warnings similar to those on cigarette packets, stating that drinking alcohol causes liver disease, harms the unborn baby, and is directly linked to fatal cancers.
These regulations will ensure that no alcohol product can be sold without bearing a warning that informs the public that:
- “Drinking alcohol causes liver disease”
- Displays a health symbol intended to inform the public of the danger of alcohol consumption when pregnant, and
- “There is a direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers”
In addition, the regulations make it mandatory that the alcohol and calorie content within the product is stated, and that the public health alcohol information website ‘askaboutalcohol.ie’ is displayed.
If the regulations are enacted there will likely be a further minimum three-year planning period before retail products must start bearing the warnings, either as part of the package design or on an attached sticker.
Alcohol Duty Freeze and Upcoming changes
The current alcohol duty freeze was expected to come to an end on 1 February 2023
However, this freeze will stay until 1 August 2023. An effective six month extension to the duty freeze.
On 1 August 2023 the UK Government will introduce new alcohol duty rates based on products’ alcoholic content (the ABV. The new alcohol duty system will include an easement for the wine industry for the first 18 months of the new system, an amended draught products relief (smaller container sizes, to support small businesses in the hospitality industry), and a small producer relief (extending the Small Brewers Relief).
Response document here The new alcohol duty system: consultation - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) sets out the government’s designs for the new alcohol duty system. Policies contained within the response document include:
- Amendments to draught relief
- More detail on Small Producer Relief
- Detail of a transitional easement for the wine industry
Wine Varieties and Blending
Response to consultation on changes to wine labelling closed last year to assist wine producers on varieties and blending Consultation on changes to Legislation relating to Alcoholic Drinks in Great Britain.pdf (defra.gov.uk)
The UK signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with New Zealand on 28 February 2022 (‘the UK-NZ FTA’). Annex 7A to the agreement concerns wine and distilled spirits.
To implement the agreement, the United Kingdom will make 3 minor changes to domestic legislation on how wine and alcoholic drinks can be described and marketed on labels. These changes allow producers and sellers more flexibility in the information they choose to include on alcoholic drink labels and will be optional for producers to adopt.
The government intends to proceed with the proposed changes to UK legislation related to alcoholic drinks in Great Britain as follows:
- wine products should be allowed to show alcoholic strength to one decimal place
- when several grape varieties are used in the production of a blended wine and are shown on the label, the named varieties must total at least 95% of the volume of the wine
- the term ‘alc/vol’ may appear directly after the alcohol content figure displayed on the label of any alcoholic beverage
EU E-labels for Wines & De-Alcoholised Wines
By December 2023 all wine producers selling in the European Union will be legally required to provide allergy, energy, ingredient and nutritional information to consumers on their labels. The EU wine industry, unlike processed food generally, has not been previously required to list ingredients other than allergens on wine labels.
Specific labelling rules applicable to wine and aromatised wine products were adopted by Regulation 2021/2117 Publications Office (europa.eu) in the framework of the reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The legislation includes a critical distinction between what information must appear, in full text, on wine labels and what information can be provided through “electronic means” ie an e label via a QR code. Whilst intolerance, allergy, and energy information must be printed directly on the label; ingredient and nutrition lists can be provided electronically via QR code or a link, leading to an independently hosted e-label. Therefore, the content of physical labels placed on the wine bottle can be limited to a nutrition declaration of the energy value by using the symbol “E.”
The QR code or link to the ‘e-label’ cannot lead the consumer to a wine manufacturer’s website. Brand websites and apps contain information and content intended for sales and marketing purposes. User data is also almost always collected and tracked through interactions with company websites and apps. The common use of Google Analytics alone would constitute non-compliance with the E.U. requirements. Therefore, electronic labels will require a ‘clean’ platform with no sales or marketing content and no function for user tracking.
- Listing of ingredients causing allergies and intolerances must be on the “physical” label;
- “Electronic” labels cannot contain any other information intended for sales or marketing purposes; and
- No user data can be collected or tracked through electronic means.
These requirements apply to all products placed on the EU market whether they are produced in the EU or imported from a third country, including wines produced in the European Union and exported outside of the European Union. Wine produced and labelled before 8 December 2023 may continue to be placed in the EU market until stocks are exhausted.
Detailed requirements for how to present the information is specified throughout the body of the related regulations, which include regulation 1169/2011 and regulation 1308/2013.
Regulation 2021/2117 also lays down the conditions under which certain ‘grapevine products’ may be de-alcoholised or partially de-alcoholised and to establish the processes for de-alcoholisation that are authorised. This is the first time that such products may be marketed as ‘wines’.
Certain protections and distinctions will be applied depending on the level of dealcoholisation and the country of origin/protected designation.
Total de-alcoholisation (alcoholic strength less than 0.5%) has been authorized for table wines. However, addition of water and other elements not obtained directly from the de-alcoholisation process is not permitted. The term “de-alcoholised” must be included, and can be provided digitally.
The term “partially de-alcoholised” can be used if the alcohol by volume is more than 0.5% but below the minimum actual alcoholic strength of the category before de-alcoholisation. For any wines with strength by volume of less than 10 %, the date of minimum durability is necessary to be included and can also be provided “through electronic means”.
Other Alcohol – Beer & Spirits
Beer and spirits are not covered by this updated regulation. However, it is expected that all drinks producers will look to follow the requirements of the ‘e-label’ in anticipation of this being included in the future.
Future Developments of Labelling
Clearly there are advantages to the e-label it will mean that developments and changes of ingredients can happen instantly without waste. Additional information can be provided in different languages without restricting space on the label. Disadvantages would be if there was any vulnerability to cyber attack or outages; also that these are reliant on a certain amount of action by the consumer and their access to electronic means. The key element is that food safety issues concerning allergies and intolerances must still be printed on the physical label.
It is likely that additional voluntary information may in time be provided via e-labels and this may then be extended to become mandatory requirements; for example an association with a central product information database, traceability information, environmental requirements
Aldi Copyright Infrinement
The Intellectual Property Enterprise court – a wing of the High Court – has ruled that Aldi infringed M&S’s copyright with its “Infusionist” gin bottles featuring light up LEDs and gold flakes, meaning Aldi may be responsible to pay substantial damages.
M&S launched the bottles in 2020 and registered the design in April 2021.
Aldi began selling its own light-up gins in November 2021.
M&S argued the products were “strikingly similar” to its own products. Aldi argued the design features in question were “commonplace” and used widely across the alcohol sector.
Judge Richard Hacon said differences pointed out by Aldi in its defence were “of relatively minor detail” and not enough to set it apart from M&S's designs. “Going back to the statutory test, it is whether the [designs] in suit and the Aldi bottles produce a different overall impression. In my judgement, they do not because of the features they have in common.”
The two retailers previously were in a dispute over ‘copycat’ cake, the Cuthbert vs Colin Caterpillar cakes where a settlement was reached in February 2022.
ASA Rulings –
Not Guilty Food Co Ltd t/a The Skinny Food Co Upheld Social media (own site) 01 February 2023 Not Guilty Food Co Ltd - ASA | CAP
An Instagram post made comparative nutrition claims between foods that did not fall into the same food category, as it compared the sugar content of a product to various fruits.
- The CAP Code requires that only nutrition claims authorised on the Great Britain Nutrition and Health Claims register (the GB Register) were permitted in marketing communications.
- A nutrition claim was defined as any claim which stated, suggested or implied that a food (or drink) had particular beneficial nutritional properties due to the amount of calories, nutrients or other substances it contained, did not contain, or contained in reduced or increased proportions.
- Comparative nutrition claims must meet the conditions of use associated with the permitted claim and must compare the difference in the claimed nutrient to a range of foods of the same category.
- The difference in the quantity of a nutrient or energy value must be stated in the marketing communication and must relate to the same quantity of food.
- The GB Register stated that a claim stating that the content of one or more nutrients had been reduced, and any claim likely to have the same meaning for the consumer, may only be made where the reduction in content was at least 30% compared to a similar product.
The ad featured a Skinny Food Chocaholic Snack Pot, a bunch of grapes, an apple and an orange alongside text which referred to the amount of sugar each item contained as well as visual representations of their sugar contents using table sugar. The ad included the caption “Chocolate that contains less sugar than Fruit?!”.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the ad to be a favourable comparison between the sugar content of a Skinny Food Chocaholic Snack Pot and the fruits listed. The ad therefore made “reduced sugars” comparative nutrition claims.
The ASA considered that a chocolate-based food and fruits did not fall into the same food category and therefore concluded that the comparative nutrition claims breached the Code.
Additionally, the ASA stated the amounts of sugar and amounts of energy listed did not relate to the same quantity of food but rather for the fruit pointed to a much greater quantity compared to the advertised product. Because the ad did not compare the sugar contents of the same quantities of food, the ASA also concluded that the ad breached the Code in that regard.
Defra Environmental Targets - Environmental Improvement Plan
As part of its five-year Environmental Improvement Plan, Environmental Improvement Plan 2023 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)the government has set new interim targets for 2028 What the Environmental Improvement Plan means for you - Future Farming (blog.gov.uk)
- Environmental Improvement Plan 2023, for the farming industry requires 65 to 80% of farmers to adopt nature friendly farming practices on at least 10-15% of their land by 2030.
- They will also be supported to create or restore 30,000 miles of hedgerows a year by 2037 and 45,000 miles of hedgerows a year by 2050.
- Defra states ammonia emissions will be reduced through incentives in the UK's post-Brexit farming schemes while expanding environmental permitting conditions to dairy and intensive beef farms.
What are the other commitments in the plan?
Other new environmental commitments set out include:
- A multi-million pound 'species survival fund' to protect the UK's rarest species – from hedgehogs to red squirrels.
- 10 actions on water efficiency in new developments and retrofits, including reviewing building regulations and other legislation
- Restoring 400 miles of river through the first round of Landscape Recovery projects and establishing 3,000 hectares of new woodlands along England’s rivers
- Challenging councils to improve air quality more quickly by assessing their performance and use of existing powers
- Improving the way air quality information is communicated with the public.
- Making it easier for people to minimise their waste, including a new set of interim targets for 2028 to reduce different types of waste, including plastic, glass, metal, paper and food.
Waste Minimisation per person
The plan commits the government to halving residual waste (excluding “major” mineral waste) produced per person by 2042.
For the purposes of the target, the government says it defines “residual” waste as waste that is sent to landfill, put through incineration or used in energy recovery in the UK, or that is sent overseas to be used in energy recovery.
The residual waste target is underpinned by the interim targets for 31 January 2028:
- Reduce residual waste (excluding major mineral waste) produced per person by 24%.
- Reduce residual waste (excluding major mineral waste) in total tonnes by 21%.
- Reduce municipal residual waste produced per person by 29%.
- Reduce residual municipal food waste produced per person by 50%.
- Reduce residual municipal plastic waste produced per person by 45%.
- Reduce residual municipal paper and card waste produced per person by 26%.
- Reduce residual municipal metal waste produced per person by 42%.
- Reduce residual municipal glass waste produced per person by 48%.
As part of the plan, the government has also committed to eliminating avoidable waste by 2050 and doubling resource productivity by 2050.
Fatality £800k fine
A wine and drinks supplier has been fined after a visiting HGV driver was killed after being hit by a forklift truck at its depot. Wine company fined £800k after HGV driver killed at Salford depot | HSE Media Centre Kingsland wines HGV driver fatally injured by forklift truck receive fine of £800,000 plus costs.
Manchester Magistrates Court heard how on 19 August 2020, John Fitzpatrick, was waiting for his trailer to be loaded at the company's site when the incident happened.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company's risk assessment was out of date and not fit for purpose and that there was no pedestrian and vehicle segregation in place in the loading area. Also, visiting drivers were not given clear information about site safety
The HSE has commented that clear controls should be in place for visiting drivers.
"Companies who have loading areas need to provide information and instructions to visiting drivers and have clear segregation in place to ensure the site is safe for all who use it.”
Please see Workplace transport - HSE
Main types of fatal accidents 2021/22 records ‘being struck by a moving vehicle’ as 23% Statistics - Work-related fatal injuries in Great Britain (hse.gov.uk)