Calorie regulations will bring ‘further cost pressures’ to industry

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Calorie control: New regulations will cause financial challenges and added workload to recovering industry (Getty/ Hispanolistic)
Calorie control: New regulations will cause financial challenges and added workload to recovering industry (Getty/ Hispanolistic)

Related tags Calorie information Calorie labelling Food Legislation Government

New calorie regulations will bring cost pressures and an added workload to a sector struggling to recover from Covid, according to operators.

Pub groups with more than 250 employees must display calorie information on non-prepacked food and drink on sale from the 6 April.  

The energy content must be displayed in kilocalories (kcal), reference the size of the portion to which the calorie information relates and display the statement ‘adults need around 2,000 kcal a day’. 

According to Revolution Bars chief executive Rob Pitcher, having to label calories will bring further cost pressures to the business and wider industry, at a time when the sector was trying to recover. 

The added costs include a full reprint of menus, the cost of updating websites and order and pay apps, as well as the cost of calculating the calorie information itself.  

What’s more, this will cause a considerable added workload across the marketing, food development and IT teams, all of whom are having to deal with more complexity being added into their normal jobs, according to Pitcher. 

“This is further Government interference which, while well intentioned, as these things often are, is not focusing in the right areas, given that dining out tends to be more of a treat occasion,” he concluded.      

Challenges ahead

Wells & Co chief executive Craig Billington said the calorie regulations would pose some challenges for the company. “In terms of operating costs, we are now paying to upgrade our technology as well as re-printing menus to display information correctly,” he said. “As for impact on sales, we anticipate sales of side dishes and desserts may decline as guests begin tallying up their calorie consumption more consciously.” 

Fortunately, he continued, the calories were automatically calculated as recipes during the menu’s development stage, and yet there are now extra things to consider in relation to the physical and digital menu design, that increase the workload for staff. 

Despite this, Billington believed the calorie regulations were a “positive thing”, as would allow guests to make informed decisions that could directly affect their health and wellbeing. However, he said it could be dangerous if people became obsessed with calorie counting; spiking eating disorder rates.  

The regulations would draw sharper focus on the menu development journey in the coming years, as the business continues to move towards more sustainable practice, according to the chief executive. “Reducing portion sizes, actively choosing low fat or healthier core ingredients will become an even more important part of product development when creating recipes and balancing menu content,” he said.  

Support and understanding

Greene King, which employs about 40,000 staff across five divisions, will be impacted by the calorie rules. A spokesperson for the pubco said: “We’re rolling out calorie labelling in all our managed pubs in line with the latest regulations from the Government.  

“We support and understand the need for people to make informed choices and our different brands aim to provide a range of options for customers, whether that is for a treat occasion or a lighter meal.” 

Where food is chosen from a menu, the calorie information must be shown next to the description or price of the food for these companies. Furthermore, the calorie content must be calculated using the conversion factors listed in the annex XIV of the Retained EU Regulations 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.  

It should be average values based on either the manufacturer’s analysis of food, a calculation from the known or average values of the ingredients used, a calculation from generally established and accepted data. 

Star Pubs & Bars head of food Mark Teed commented: "We have been aware of the legislation for some time and will be following the legislation to the letter. It affects our Just Add Talent (JAT) managed operator pub business as we have more than 250 employees and our menus are in place for more than 30 days.  Our new menus, which go live in a couple of weeks, have calories listed next to each dish. 

"It doesn't impact our leased and tenanted business or pubs whose dishes are on their menus for less than 30 consecutive days and a total of 30 days in the year." 

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