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What the Ban on Advertising Unhealthy Foods Means for Hotels


The reaction to the U.K. Government’s intention to ban the online promotion of unhealthy foods and introduce a TV watershed has not been well received by many in the hospitality and food & drink sectors, and especially by the bodies representing those sectors. As a Marketer with decades of experience and a qualified Nutrition Adviser I can only agree 100% with the proposed measures. While the Government’s main target is company’s like Coca Cola, McDonalds, Kelloggs and Walkers, it will impact hotels.

The Proposals

The Government plans to ban the following, in the new Health & Care Bill, from April 2022:

  • V ads for High Fat, Sugar, Salt (HFSS) food & drinks before 9pm. They have been banned during specific children’s TV programmes since 2017.

  • All online advertising & promotion of HFSS food and drink.

  • Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) deals on HFSS food & drinks.

Plus there will be restrictions on where HFSS can be displayed and promoted in shops. And calorie labelling by all cafes, restaurants and take-aways with more than 250 employees will be compulsory.

Why is the Government introducing these measures?

The facts speak for themselves, and with the way Covid-19 has focussed the nation’s attention on health & the NHS, some of these numbers are as shocking as any Covid stats. Note: I have obtained all these stats from Government sources.

  • Obesity costs the NHS £6 billion each year.

  • One third of cancers are caused by poor diet.

  • 70,000 deaths each year in the UK could be avoided by healthy eating.

  • If you are overweight your life expectancy is reduced by 3 years & obese by 10 years.

  • Obese children are highly likely to become obese adults, with the corresponding high risk of physical and mental poor health and a reduced lifespan.

  • In 1993 just 15% of UK adults were obese, now a shocking 63% are overweight or obese.

  • Sadly, 31% of UK children aged 2-15 years old are obese or overweight

Marketing of HFSS Food & Drinks

While there is very little TV advertising of food and drink by hotels, they do have a very significant online presence. And this is where it will impact hotels most. So here are more shocking facts:

Children are exposed to 15 billion ads for HFSS food and drinks online each year and these ads do impact what they consume.

There was a 450% increase in online ads for food a drink between 2010 and 2017.

Children now spend more time online than they do watching TV.

Food and drink ads don’t just impact what people eat, but also their long-term food preferences.

The government’s principle aim is tackling child obesity, with an overall aim of improving the health of the nation. But because it is currently almost impossible to identify the online audience, proposed measures for online advertising have to be across the board to have any impact, whereas the proposed TV measures can be aimed at children.

What do these measures mean for hotels?

The biggest impact of this proposed bill for hotels is that they will no longer be able to promote any foods deemed unhealthy anywhere online, and that includes on their own website or in posts on their own social media channels. The only exceptions are if it is B2B, or if the main purpose of promoting the products is to sell them online.

This bill is in no way restricting what anyone can sell or serve, and the exceptions demonstrate that it is not trying to destroy businesses. Their motivation is to get companies promoting foods that are healthy.

You are probably asking yourself ‘Would I be able to promote my afternoon tea, cheese platter or full English breakfast on Instagram after April 2022?’

Well, they are using a tool called a Nutrient Profile, which has recently been updated, and scores a food or meal on how much sugar, fat, salt, fruit, vegetables, nuts, fibre and protein it contains. So, in answer to the above, probably not.

Next Steps for a Hotel

I would suggest a review of how much food and beverage marketing you currently do online and what products you are promoting. Until further guidance is published, either your chef or someone qualified in nutrition or a suitable app, should be able to give you an indication of whether these foods would pass the test. Most afternoon teas would probably be banned from online advertising in future. As would a full English breakfast.

The next step would be to consider what alternative foods you could promote? And would they be attractive to your consumer? A fruit salad probably wouldn’t hack it as an alternative to afternoon tea, but scrambled egg and tomatoes on seeded toast could well replace the full English!

Long Term Strategy

It is in everyone’s interest to encourage and promote healthy eating, and it is a cop out for hotels to suggest that people only dine there for a treat and as such don’t care about how calorific or healthy the food is. I’m sure McDonalds would argue the same.

Speaking personally I’d give anything for hotels to have healthy afternoon teas. And as a keen home-baker and cook, over many decades, who is passionate about healthy eating, it isn’t that difficult to do. It requires creativity and greater awareness of the nutritional composition of items. When I look at a typical afternoon tea I see a load of processed carbs, added sugar and saturated fats. Never mind the calories!

Also, ask yourself, is it ethical to promote something that is a mid-afternoon snack and has more than the recommended DAILY calorie allowance in it? And probably exceeds recommended fat and sugar levels for the day?

In my opinion, most menus need a serious overhaul with consideration to nutritional values, calories and the ever-growing number of dietary requirements. We all dine out so frequently nowadays, not just on special occasions like previous generations, so meals out are a significant contributor to our potential wellbeing. And we are spoilt with the wide range of ingredients readily available to us.


It is disappointing that the food industry, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Food & Drink Federation and some members of hospitality are against these measures. Those claiming it will reduce business are missing the point. The intention is for companies to develop and promote healthier alternatives. Not surprisingly the British Heart Foundation, the Obesity Health Alliance and Cancer Research UK support the proposed measures.

We have all spent over a year ‘protecting the NHS’ from Covid-19. Now the Government is simply introducing measures to protect it from the obesity epidemic and most importantly protect the future of our children from the obesity that will cause them a lifetime of misery and premature death.

The least we can do as Marketers and Hospitality professionals is embrace these changes by creating ethical marketing which promotes healthy foods and by reviewing our menus to elevate the nutritional value of what we do.

This article may be reproduced in part or in full so long as full credit is given to Pamela Carvell, Lifestyle Consultant. The stats in this article have come from Government documents or research by reputable organisations such as Cancer Research UK and the the Obesity Health Alliance.


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