New rules relating to advertising of High Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) food and beverage products unveiled by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland

  • No medium can be used to advertise HFSS products if more than 50% of its audience is under 15 years of age and restrictions apply to the percentage of HFSS marketing communications that can be carried by each media format
  • New rules also apply to sponsorship activities and use of licensed characters in promotional activity
  • Locations primarily used by children such as schools, creches, youth centres and playgrounds should be free from all forms of marketing communication for HFSS foods

30th June 2021: The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI), the independent self-regulatory body committed to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications in Ireland, has unveiled new rules relating to the advertising of High Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) products which will be incorporated into the Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages Section of the ASAI Code.

The new rules will restrict marketing communications for HFSS foods and beverages from being directed or targeted at children under the age of 15 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear. The rules are in response to changing media habits among young people, as well as wider concerns in society about public health challenges for this age group. Thresholds for non-broadcast media will reduce the overall exposure to HFSS product marketing communications.

In summary, the new rules state that:

  • No medium can be used to advertise HFSS products if more than 50% of its audience is under 15 years of age
  • There are also thresholds on the amount of advertising for HFSS products that can be published by each media format. For example, no more than 33% of available outdoor space can carry HFSS product marketing communications, whilst for cinema, digital and print media, no more than 25% of the available space can carry HFSS product marketing communications
  • Marketing communications targeted at children for HFSS products cannot include a promotional offer or a competition. There are also restrictions on the use of licensed character
  • Locations primarily used by children will be prohibited to run any form of marketing communication for HFSS foods. Examples of such settings include registered crèches, pre-schools, nurseries, family and child clinics, paediatric services, schools, dedicated school transport, playgrounds and youth centres.

The above rules will be in addition to existing rules such as marketing communications should not denigrate a healthy lifestyle, not encourage unhealthy eating or drinking habits, not encourage consumption to take advantage of a promotional offer.

The new restrictions will come into effect on 1st December 2021 and ASAI will be working with media and advertisers to ensure the successful rollout of the rules. To facilitate this, ASAI will be taking a very practical and staged approach to their implementation. They will be proactively monitoring this area and, for the first six months after the effective date, will add any complaints that may be received into their monitoring structure, using them as a form of intelligence gathering.

ASAI will be developing a presentation that covers the rules in detail and they will also be offering other required supports to help advertisers and media with the implementation of these new rules. An introductory video by Orla Twomey, Chief Executive, is here.

Orla Twomey, Chief Executive of the ASAI, said: “The implementation of these new rules in the ASAI Code are a significant and positive change designed to help and protect the wellbeing of children as well limit the overall exposure of HFSS advertising to the general public. Key industry groups support the implementation of the rules, demonstrating the advertising industry’s continuing commitment to advertising self-regulation. 

As well as limiting HFSS product advertising, the new rules will alter the nature of how food advertising is seen by children.”

Below are the key changes and additions to Section 8 of the ASAI Code, Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages: To view the Code in full, please visit www.asai.ie

Placement of marketing communications for HFSS products in non-broadcast media

8.19          Marketing communications for HFSS food should not be directed or targeted at children under 15 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear.

8.20          No medium should be used to advertise HFSS products if more than 50% of its audience is under 15 years of age.

Media specific rules

8.21          Where a marketing communication for HFSS is permissible, it shall be subject to media specific placement rules, including maximum thresholds for each medium.  The details for each media are set out in the Guidance Note on High Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages on www.asai.ie.

Locations

8.22:       Locations primarily used by children shall be free from all forms of marketing communication for HFSS foods. Examples of such settings include registered crèches, pre-schools, nurseries, family and child clinics, paediatric services, schools, dedicated school transport, playgrounds and youth centres.

Promotional offers

8.24        Marketing communications, in non-broadcast media for HFSS food products, that are targeted at children at children should not include promotional offers or a competition, subject to the exception listed below:

(i)       Point of sale displays, packages, wrappers, labels, tickets, timetables and menus.

Licensed Characters and Celebrities

8.26                 (b)     Marketing communications, in non-broadcast media for HFSS food products, that are targeted at children should not include licensed characters or celebrities popular with children, subject to the exceptions listed below:    

                                 (i)            Point of sale displays, packages, wrappers, labels, tickets, timetables and menus;

                     (ii)           The prohibition does not apply to advertiser-created equity brand characters (puppets, persons or characters), which may be used by advertisers to sell the products they were designed to sell.

HFSS Sponsorship arrangements

8.28      These rules apply to all forms of commercial sponsorship, involving HFSS food, of activities or events of any kind. 

8.29      The restrictions will not extend to corporate identities, trading names, or masterbrands.

8.30      No sponsorship involving HFSS food will be permitted for any other setting dedicated to use by children of primary school age.

8.31      No sponsorship involving HFSS food will be permitted of events of particular appeal to children of primary school age. “

8.32      Existing sponsorship contracts and agreements which otherwise would be in breach of the code will be permitted to continue until they expire.

(See Effective Date for implementation date of rules 8.28 – 8.32)

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland is financed by the advertising industry and committed, in the public interest, to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications that is advertising, promotional marketing and direct marketing. The objective is to ensure that all commercial marketing communications are ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’.

The Code covers commercial marketing communications and sales promotions in all media in Ireland including digital web, social, mobile, in-game ads, influencer marketing (user-generated commercial content), print, outdoor, radio, TV, leaflets/brochures, SMS/MMS, cinema, and direct marketing.

Further information on advertising self-regulation, the ASAI and the operation of the system is available at www.asai.ie

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