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Reducing the nation’s calorie intake

The government is on a mission to reduce our consumption of calories and is calling on the food sector, retailers and caterers to help. The two key commitments to come out of the government’s obesity strategy include 1. calorie labelling for the out of home sector and 2. voluntary calorie reduction guidelines.  These policies are about making changes to the environment and empowering people with the right information to make healthier choices.

Calorie labelling

The Government’s recent Tackling Obesity policy paper (published in 27 July 2020) outlines the need to provide people with clear information about calorie contents.  This is to help people make informed decisions about the food they choose to eat.  By having calorie information available, making healthier choices should – in theory – be easier for people when eating out.   

The introduction of new legislation requiring calorie labelling to food applies to large out-of-home food businesses with more than 250 employees only.  The policy is expected to come into force in Autumn/Winter 2021.  For now, smaller food businesses will be encouraged to provide calorie labelling voluntarily but they may be included in the future.  Guidance for businesses on how to implement this will be published soon. 

Calorie labels will be required to provide information about the number of calories in a standard portion of food along with a visible declaration referring to the recommended daily intake of an adult woman (2,000 kcal). It will be up to food business operators to make clear to customers, what a standard portion size is in their establishment.  

The calorie labelling requirements mean hotels, restaurants, cafes, takeaways, bakeries, some workplace canteens, and other supermarkets will need to provide calorie information at the point of choice.  Food for under 18s in schools, food for patients in hospitals, food for residents in care homes and in-house workplace canteens will be exempt from the requirements.

Calories will need to be displayed either on menus, menu boards, shelf edges, food packages or wherever price is displayed, and the final meal choice is made by the consumer.  The recently published Government response to public consultation on Mandating calorie labelling in the out of home sector states that labelling will apply to all food and drink items that an establishment offers, including sides, toppings and drinks, seasonal dishes and ‘specials’, as well as self-service items such as buffets, and salad bars.

Voluntary calorie reduction guidelines

Reading the menu and calories

Another government action involving all sectors of the food industry is calorie reduction in the foods that are available to us in both retail and out of home. New voluntary calorie reduction guidelines published (September 2020) set out the technical guidance for food businesses.

The Government’s ambition is for a calorie reduction to be made across a range of food categories including main meals, side dishes, children’s meal bundles, crisps, pizza and savoury snacks, pastry products and sandwiches.  The biggest reduction in calories is expected from the eating out, takeaway and the delivery sector by 2024. Targets have been set as percentage reductions for food categories alongside maximum calorie guidelines for all food categories.

In summary:

  • 5% calorie reduction – sandwiches, crisps and savoury snacks
  • 10% calorie reduction – children’s meal bundles, ready-made meals, chips and garlic bread 
  • 20% calorie reduction – most meal categories in the eating out of home, takeaway and delivery sector plus pizza and pastry products across retail and out of home
  • Maximum calorie guidelines for all categories

The new voluntary guidelines aim to encourage the food industry to help drive calorie intake down by focusing on products that are consumed more regularly and those that contribute most energy to the diet. The food industry can help by including calorie reduction as part of ongoing reformulation and innovation plans, in addition to reducing the product portion size of the biggest sellers.

Automatically calculate calories

We are here to fully support your organisation to be well prepared for this new initiative. We’ve developed new features in our Pi menu management system which automatically calculates calories, alongside other key nutrition information, from data collected directly from suppliers

plate with fork, knife and QR code

If you would like to see the benefits – we would be happy to show you. Please contact us to book a demo at

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