CPMA warns on packaging impact of proposed food regs

Richard Stuart-Turner
Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance (CPMA) has cautioned that recommended regulation on certain foods could cause issues for the printed packaging industry and the marketing of the products in question.

Ridgway: Packaging industry “must be mindful of these pressures”
Ridgway: Packaging industry “must be mindful of these pressures”

Part two of the National Food Strategy report was published last week, a year after the publication of the first part. It looked at the entire food chain, from field to fork, including the production, marketing, processing, sale, and purchase of food, for consumption in the home and out of it.

The independent review was led by Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of Leon, lead non-executive director at Defra, and co-author of The School Food Plan; and was supported by an advisory panel and Defra officials.

The report made recommendations for the government, which has promised to respond formally with a white paper within six months.

Among the recommendations was the introduction of a £3/kg tax on sugar and a £6/kg tax on salt sold for use in processed foods or in restaurants and catering businesses.

“This would create an incentive for manufacturers to reduce the levels of sugar and salt in their products, by reformulating their recipes or reducing their portion sizes,” the report stated.

The report also proposed a series of measures to get fresh food and ingredients to low-income households with children.

Recommended measures included expanding free school meals, extending the Holiday Activities and Food programme for the next three years, an expansion of the Healthy Start scheme, and the trial of a ‘Community Eatwell’ programme that enables GPs to prescribe fruit and vegetables to people suffering, or at risk of suffering, from diet-related illness or food insecurity.

But speaking soon after the launch of the report, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that while he would study the report with interest, and “there are doubtless some good ideas in it”, he was not attracted “to the idea of extra taxes on hardworking people”.

CPMA director Mike Ridgway warned that “although understandable concerning the obesity situation in the country”, the recommended regulations would “undoubtedly have repercussions onto the packaging industry”.

“The ‘taxes’ on sugar [and] salty snacks will not only affect the raw material costs and the retail prices of these items, but also the marketing of a range of popular consumer products.”

He told Printweek the packaging industry “must be mindful of these pressures”, as regulations could reduce innovation within the sector, and there could be a loss of added value if embellishments or the number of colours permitted to appear on the packaging of the products in question was targeted.

“Although it is known that excessive consumption is not to be encouraged, alternative methods should be also considered. Where is the role of the parent in this debate, let alone guidance from the educational fraternity in this area?” he said.

He cautioned that state restrictions on promotional activities and special offer promotions “would be obvious future targets”.

“Extending on from this, the design of the packaging itself would surely follow, with suggestions already made regarding the elimination of cartoon characters, many of which have been much loved by children over the years,” he added.

“Then will be the use of restricted colours and other packaging design features. Pressure would mount upon in-store layouts, including restrictions on aisle ends and store entrances, and making all checkouts confectionery free – certain retailers have partially introduced this feature already.

“The trends in controls of this type are very similar with those which led to the introduction of tobacco and cigarette ‘plain packaging’, and the sale of such products from behind the counters with restrictive access.”

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