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New Calorie Menu Labelling Legislation: when, why, who, what is expected?

"Calorie labelling will be required on menus for food that is prepared and sold for immediate consumption"
7th Sep 2021

From the 6th April 2022, certain businesses in England will have to display the calorie content for the food they sell. The initiative applies to large out-of-home food businesses, including contract caterers, restaurants, cafes and takeaways with more than 250 employees. It is part of new legislation that was introduced in 2021 to tackle obesity. However, long before this new requirement, calorie labelling has been at the forefront of efforts to help consumers make more informed food choices. What we eat, how much we drink and how active we are is heavily shaped by our environment. Creating the right environment can encourage and empower people to take responsibility for their health and make healthy choices. 

The UK introduced voluntary calorie labelling as part of the public health responsibility deal in 2011. Over 40 businesses, representing over 9500 outlets signed up to provide calorie information on food prepared for immediate consumption. Since then, in 2018, the UK public health body Public Health England launched a campaign to reduce calories in foods by 20% by 2024. It is hoped that mandating the provision of calorie information for large food businesses will support calorie reduction by encouraging the reformulation of meals with excessively high calorie values. 

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Why Calories Labelling can Make a Difference

Some people are concerned that calorie labelling will generate an additional burden on businesses that have already faced unimaginable challenges in recent years. However, studies show that businesses actually benefit from presenting calorie information to consumers by increasing customer loyalty, reducing food waste and increasing revenue. 

We are eating meals prepared outside of the home more and more. 27% of adults and 19% of children in theUnited Kingdom eat out once a week or more. It is well documented that foods prepared outside the home tend to have higher energy and fat content than meals prepared at home. Increased consumption of meals prepared outside of the home has been linked to increased body weight. Calorie labelling has been suggested as a strategy to help combat obesity. When calorie labelling is presented it can reduce calories ordered by 11% (93 calories). Furthermore, there is high demand for calorie menu labelling to enable consumers to make informed food choices. 

When is the deadline?

6th April 2022

Who does it apply to?

Except for certain exemptions, food businesses with 250 or more employees in the out of home sector are subject to the new rules. 

Examples of business types that will be required to display calories on menus after the April 2022 deadline, include: 

  • Restaurants, fast food outlets, cafes, pubs and supermarkets.
  • Home delivery services and 3rd party apps. 
  • Cafes and takeaways within larger venues. 
  • Specialist food stores, delicatessens, sweetshops and bakeries. 
  • Contract catering. 
  • Domestic transport within the UK 

What information is needed and how should it be displayed?

“Calorie labelling should be implemented according to best practice to ensure compliance and increase efficacy” 

But what does that actually mean? Simply put - the information should be consistent, logical and be easy to understand. Here are some practical guidelines that are best practice. 

The information businesses will be required to display is: 

  • The energy content of the food in kilocalories (kcal). 
  • The reference the size of the portion to which the calorie information relates. 
  • A statement that ‘adults need around 2000 kcal a day’. 

The required information should be displayed clearly and prominently at the point where the customer decides what food to buy. This is usually beside the name, description or price of the food item, shown in the same size and font and colour as these food descriptors. 

Displaying the average amount of calories people need in a day is important to help people understand their food choices in context of their daily needs. The legislation requires the statement ‘adults need around 2000 kcal a day’ to be included alongside calorie information for foods on sale. This Statement of daily calorie needs must be displayed wherever food is offered for sale so as to ensure the statement can be seen and read by anyone buying food at the point at which they choose what to buy. 

Which foods does the legislation apply to?

Calorie labelling will be required on all items that are prepared and sold for immediate consumption and are not subject to existing pre-packaged labelling requirements.

Examples of foods that must have calorie information:

  • Unpackaged items such as a meal at a restaurant

  • Prepacked food for direct sale such as a sandwich made and packaged on-site at a café

  • Food packaged at a consumer’s request, such as a sausage roll at a bakery

  • Sides and toppings on a menu.

Foods that are not included:

  • Condiments that are added by the consumer to their own food 

  • Alcoholic beverages (containing more than 1.2% alcohol by volume) 

  • Bespoke food requested by the customer - not included on the menu or prepared differently then described on the menu. 

  • Whole foods sold as single items - Fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed foods including meat, cheese and fish and loaves of bread - provided that they are not offered as part of a bigger menu item (e.g. ham, cheese and tomato baguette) 

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