Nutrition

National Food Strategy: a review of the UK food system

Food does more than influence our health and wellbeing – it characterises who we are, shapes our landscape and provides jobs.  I’m proud to say that I am part of the UK’s food industry, and if you are reading this blog, chances are, you are one of my fellow one in eight who earn a living from it too!

It may come as no surprise though to hear that intensive farming practises have taken their toll on the environment, whilst food related diseases are affecting the lives of millions and costing our NHS billions.  Food sustainability is increasingly becoming a concern too and so, it is fantastic news to hear that government has announced the first major review in nearly 75 years, of Britain’s food system.

The independent review aims to investigate the entire food system, from field to fork, and consider what changes are needed to ensure that it:

  • Delivers safe, healthy, affordable food, regardless of where people live or how much they earn;
  • Is robust in the face of future shocks
  • Restores and enhances the natural environment for the next generation;
  • Is built upon a resilient and sustainable agriculture sector;
  • Is a thriving contributor to our urban and rural economies, delivering well paid jobs and supporting innovative producers and manufacturers.
  • Does all of this in an efficient and cost-effective way.

For the review to be shaped by the widest possible national engagement, it will involve chefs, farmers, retailers, policy makers and small businesses in addition to focus groups consisting of people with diet related diseases, families on low incomes as well as a citizens’ assembly and a young persons’ assembly.

Recommendations from this review, led by Henry Dimbleby, co-author of the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan, will result in a trailblazing new National Food Strategy, set to be published in 2020.

I’m sure you will agree – this is a great opportunity to review and improve the impact the food sector has on health, the environment and the economy.

AB Food Nutrition specialises in working closely on all aspects of nutrition labelling/policy with food businesses of all sizes and has years of experience supporting new and small food businesses not just in the North West, but across the UK. Contact Anne to discuss your requirements for a cost-effective food & nutrition labelling quote.

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4 reasons you need a food & nutrition labelling consultant

Maybe you are puzzled at why companies might hire consultants instead of solving their own problems themselves? As much as I hate to hear it, that question does make sense however, there are many reasons why a company might need to use a consultant to help with their nutrition and labelling obligations (and also why I am able to keep working with some of the coolest foodies in the industry!).

 

You might not want the responsibility of verifying all the information on your own

Labelling rules are strictly regulated and can get complicated when trying to establish if you have included all the mandatory information correctly, taken account of the minimum type sizes for the text on your label in addition to any specific declarations that may apply to your product type.

A labelling consultant is there to support you in producing compliant labels.  They are the experts who know what can or cannot be printed on the label and they are aware of which sets of regulations will apply to your product type no matter how complex that may be.

You are just starting out in the food industry

No doubt you have done tons of research looking at competitor products so that you can make your label the best and the most eye catching.  However, if your competitor makes certain claims on their packs, this doesn’t mean that you should too.

Consultants will advise you what is compliant rather than what sells best in the market place.  Brands who break the law do so at their own risk and are likely to be challenged by the authorities eventually.

You don’t have the time to learn about labelling laws

Perhaps you are launching several products at once or have just won a new retail contract with a very tight launch timeline.  Maybe you just don’t have the energy or desire to check your label designs are compliant amongst all the other important tasks required in the running of your expanding business?

By nature, consultants will provide advice that clearly keeps their client within the law, so do exactly what a labelling consultant tells you!!  Obvious I know, but there are so many regulations under constant change, it would be almost impossible for small businesses to keep up. Once you have established your product portfolio and had your labels reviewed, it should become a routine task to add more SKUs in the future if they are of similar ingredients.

You want to hire an experienced and knowledgeable labelling expert

In an ideal world, you would have a team of experts in-house, but the reality is, the number of hours and frequency you would need them means employing these experts full-time is not an option.

This is where the flexibility of using a consultant really comes into its own. You only pay for the services/time the consultant provides.  You also benefit from projects being completed speedily because your consultant (unlike in-house employees) isn’t distracted by other business tasks.  This means good value for money!

It may seem like a big investment or effort to employ a food and nutrition labelling consultant, though you may find that you are eligible for funding or grants that will cover some or all of the fees.  AB Food Nutrition specialises in working closely with organisations of all sizes and has years of experience supporting new and small food businesses not just in the North West, but across the UK. Contact Anne to discuss your requirements for a cost-effective food & nutrition labelling quote.

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Do I need a Nutritionist for recipe analysis?

There is a plethora of software options and subscriptions available for businesses to calculate the nutrient contents of their recipes – but as with anything, the accuracy of the data output is only going to be as good as the information going in!

I first wrote about this in 2016 and the importance of using professionally trained experts, but in recent months it has become apparent when talking with several food business owners, that small/medium sized operators are increasingly starting to calculate their nutrition information themselves.  With this in mind, now seemed a good time to revisit and discuss the benefits & pitfalls of calculating the nutrition contents of foods and drinks.

AB Food Nutrition has many years of experience calculating the nutrient composition of recipes for labels, menu boards and magazines. Using your product recipe we can take the hassle out of nutrition labelling compliance whilst providing an inexpensive, confidential and personal service to your business.  Contact Anne for details.

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Sugar Reduction Progress Report

Public Health England (PHE) published the first assessment of progress towards the government’s sugar reduction programme this week – the challenge of which was a 5% reduction in the first year compared to the 2015 baseline.

Across 8 of the 10 categories (excluding cakes & morning goods due to data collection limitations) retailers/manufacturers achieved a 2% reduction in total sugar and a 2% reduction in calories in products consumed on a single occasion.

Whilst this doesn’t meet the 5% ambition, it is recognised that there are more sugar reduction plans in the pipeline and also some changes took effect after the first year cut-off point.

 

There have been reductions in sugar across 5 categories; breakfast cereals, ice cream/lollies/sorbets, sweet spreads & sauces, sweet confectionery, yogurt & fromage frais

Yogurts & fromage frais, breakfast cereals, sweet spreads & sauces all met or exceeded the 5% sugar reduction ambition

Calories in products consumed on a single occasion have been reduced in 4 categories (Biscuits, chocolate confectionery, Ice cream/lollies/sorbet, yogurts & fromage frais) by reducing the portion size.

Sugar levels are generally the same across all sectors however for out of home sector, portion sizes likely to be consumed in one go are on average double those of retailers and manufacturers

 

The progress report shows that there is more work still to be done and organisations such as the British Dietetic Association have expressed initial disappointment at the lack of progress made.  Some manufacturers and retailers appear to have made very significant progress where others have made very little, if any!

Products not meeting the 5% target include biscuits, ice cream, confectionery and puddings which is no surprise, as sugar has functions in these foods other than just providing a sweet taste.  Finding alternatives that do not impact on texture or appearance will take time as new technologies are developed.

PHE has also published new guidelines for the drinks industry to reduce the amount of sugar children consume through juice and milk based drinks by mid-2021:

reduce sugar in juice based drinks (excluding single juice) by 5%

cap all juice based drinks (including blended juices, smoothies and single juices) likely to be consumed in one go to 150 calories

reduce sugar in milk (and milk substitutes) based drinks by 20% and cap products likely to be consumed in one go to 300 calories

 

The exemption of milk based drinks from the sugar levy will be reviewed by the treasury in 2020. Progress on drinks covered by the levy shows that in response, sugar has been reduced by 11% and calories per portion by 6%.  Data shows more drinks below the 5g/100g cut-off are being purchased.

As part of the wider reformulation programme. PHE have also announced:

Guidelines for foods included in the calorie reduction programme are to be published mid-2019

Progress towards the 2017 salt targets is to be assessed and published by end 2018, followed by consideration of the next stage of the programme

Product ranges targeted at babies & young children are to be considered

Engagement with the out of home sector to move forward with reformulation

The next progress report on sugar reduction is due spring 2019.  In the meantime, it is as important as ever that the industry continues to work on reducing sugar in top selling products by reformulating or reducing portion sizes.

AB Food Nutrition works with manufacturers to provide nutrient composition values of their products for labelling and also during product development or reformulation. We can work with you to assess the impact recipe changes will have on nutritional content as well as advising on ways to achieve a desired nutritional profile such as a 5% or 20% sugar reduction as well asa reduction in calories. Contact Anne for further information about our nutrition and labelling services.

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Industry reformulation & nutrition guidance

There has never been more of a focus or pressure on food manufacturers to reformulate products in a bid to improve the nutritional content of products.  The good news is that UK shoppers don’t mind their favourite products being reformulated – just so long as they taste as good!  So are you ready to rise to the challenge?

Whether this is reducing sugar, salt or saturated fat or even enriching foods with the nutrients that we need to consume more of – you might find the collection of case studies from the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) a good source of inspiration and ideas.  Here are some of the reformulation highlights:

 

  • ASDA reduced sugar in the base dough recipe of their donuts by 50% without any technical issues.  They also reduced salt in sour cream & onion party bites by simply adding a crisp without added salt to the mix.
  • Premier Foods adopted a ‘health by stealth’ approach by making gradual changes to the sugar content of their popular Mr Kipling Viennese Whirls.
  • Reducing sugar by 33% and salt by 21% in Musgrave cooking sauces took Greencore 8 months to achieve by boosting the tomato and vegetable content.  This required new ingredients to be sourced and new procedures creating.  A similar approach was taken by Mars Food for Dolmio sauces.
  • It took 12 months for Tesco to reformulate honey & mustard chicken pasta due to technical issues with creating a lower fat dressing that doesn’t split when honey is an ingredient.  Tesco also identified that mayonnaise and butter were common ingredients in sandwiches so they replaced this with a reduced fat mayonnaise and also removed the butter.
  • Dairy Crest worked for 2 years to produce a high quality lower fat mature cheese.
  • M&S enriched their loaves and rolls with fibre and used a type of yeast that produces vitamin D.  Clear front of pack labelling was also a significant element as customers find positive messages more motivating.

  • Greggs launched a new ‘Balanced Choice’ range consisting of products <400 calories and with no red colour coded nutrients.  They also reformulated some traditional favourites by replacing puff pastry with shortcrust and developing lower fat fillings.
  • Tesco reformulated trifles taking several years to achieve a multi-component nutrient reduction.  This not only resulted in a healthier product, but the cream had a fresher & cleaner taste and organoleptic properties were improved at end of shelf life.
  • Sainsbury’s made a simple swap from whole milk to semi skimmed in drinks served from in store cafes resulting in significant reductions in both calories and fat.  They also provide the nutritional composition of their products on menu boards to help customers make informed choices.
  • Co-op worked collaboratively with one of their suppliers – Tulip, using a solution called IPOSOL in order to achieve a 30% reduction in salt in gammon.
  • Morrisons removed sugar from extruded breakfast cereals by replacing it with a bulking carbohydrate that did not increase calories.  The ratio of cereal types was altered to boost fibre content and improve texture.

Another new resource that will be of particular interest if your are a catering manager or chef is the Nutrition guide from the British Hospitality Association.  This go-to guide is full of useful information about how to provide healthier options and the legal obligations that must be complied with.

The guidance helps caterers to design healthier menus including those specifically aimed at children or for those with allergies.  Packed with ideas on how to maximise the use of fruit and veg, purchasing tips, food preparation techniques to preserve nutrients and ways to remove/reduce/replace fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt, it even advises on ways to promote your new menu and ensure that you are making legally compliant nutrition and health claims.

 

Whilst the reasons for formulating products are varied it’s clear that consumers and external influences are big a stimulus for healthier reformulation.

 

AB Food Nutrition works with manufacturers to provide nutrient composition values of their products for labelling or menu boards and also during product development or reformulation. We can work with you to assess the impact recipe changes will have on nutritional content as well as advising on ways to achieve a desired nutritional profile such as reducing fat, sugar or salt including advice on which nutrition or health claims you can use in product marketing.  Contact Anne for further information about our nutrition and labelling services.

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