The stories in the past few months about public health and sugar intake will undoubtedly remind many publicans of the smoking ban.
Barely a day goes by that a story about sugar in food isn’t on the television, in the papers or published online – it is the number one public health issue. But should pubs be concerned about the sudden rise of interest in sugar?
Now smoking is in decline and teetotalism on the rise, the public health lobby – and the associated articles in newspapers and online - has switched the focus to obesity, and its association with sugar in fast food, snacks, sugary drinks, and meals out of home.
We have already had gateway legislation with the sugar levy for the drinks trade, but how far can it go? And how will it impact the pub trade?
it seems to me that Public Health England (PHE) has been pushing the sugar issue consistently in the past year. Although legislation isn’t imminent for pubs or restaurants, the reality is that PHE are clearly escalating it as a health concern.
Inapub wrote in Spring 2018 about how PHE was pushing for a reduction of 20% in sugars for pub meals by 2020. It then re-iterated the issue around sugar with children in June – stating at the time that kids were eating double the amount they should. Then, in December, the body called for a maximum 951 calorie limit for pub dishes.
Is this focus the “nanny state” trying to intervene in our personal decisions or should pubs accept its findings, and be doing something about it right now?
We all want a bit of indulgence, and pubs are a place of delight, conviviality and, well, vice, - not ‘clean living’. That is a given.
At the same time though, we can’t get away from the fact that something is going on with our waistlines. As we move towards living in a society where more than a third will be classified as obese – and the figures are growing, not going down – pubs can, in my opinion, expect sugar and calorie legislation in the next decade, for sure.
Therefore, futureproofing your pub food offer is vital - and can definitely drive custom right now.
Think about ingredients in dishes and roughly work out what kind of sugar and calorie levels the menu has. This doesn't mean taking pie & chips off the menu or suddenly offering just salads. But it does mean adding calorie counts and low sugar options and shouting about the healthiness of certain dishes.
Watch this space... it could be a big story for pubs in the coming year.