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.
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.
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 compositionof 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 guidefrom 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.
At the start of the week, the House of Commons Health Select Committee published a follow up to the Government’s childhood obesity plan, in which they welcomed the measures included but were extremely disappointed that several key areas had not been included.
Tiered levy on sugary drinks – strongly recommend measures are implemented to ensure manufacturers pass on the price differential between high & low/no sugar to help maximise the ‘nudge’ and prevent consumers of sugar-free products subsidising the higher sugar drinks. Also urge Government to extend the levy to milk-based drinks with added sugar.
Voluntary reformulation programme (sugar) – urge Government to set out proposals if the voluntary reformulation does not go as far or as fast as necessary. Likewise Public Health England (PHE) should set out plans for reducing portion size & Government draw up measures to implement a cap on portion sizes linked to calorie content of certain foods & drinks for implementation if voluntary action does not achieve this.
Discounts & promotions – urge Government to follow evidence based advice from their chief public health advisers and to regulate price promotions on the sale of unhealthy food & drinks.
Committee of Advertising Practise (CAP) banning high fat, salt & sugar (HFSS) advertising in children’s media – new rules could and should go further. Urge a re-examination of the case for further restrictions on advertising HFSS food & drink in the light of the most recent research.
Out of home sector – a call for a change to planning legislation to make it easier for local authorities to limit proliferation of unhealthy food outlets in their areas.
And today (30/03/17) Public Health England published a technical report setting out guidelines on how to achieve a 20% sugar reduction across 9 categories of food (that provide the majority of the sugar in the diets of children up to 18yrs).
For each category, the overall levels of sugar per 100g to achieve the 5% and 20% reductions are provided based on sales weighted averages – to help businesses focus reformulation on the top selling products that make the biggest contribution to sugar levels. Average and maximum calories or portion size guidelines for products likely to be consumed by an individual at one time are also provided – the biggest selling individual portion size products will need to decrease to reduce averages across categories.
To monitor progress, the levels of sugars and calories assessed across food categories in 2015 will be used as the baseline. Two detailed assessments (March 2018, March 2020) will be published to advise on progress with lighter reviews & progress reports at 6 monthly intervals.
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. Contact Anne for further information about our nutrition and labelling services.
You’ve got nutrition information on your product labels, so that’s it – job done and you are fully FIR compliant now….right?
Well, yes and no!
Whether you have had your nutrition information calculated or analysed, it is only going to be valid for the recipe as it was at the time of the analysis. If in the future you decide to tweak the recipe, change the way it is processed or launch new products, then you have to make sure you have the nutrition information updated and incorporated on the pack or label before you even begin selling the product.
Even if you never ever change the recipe, nutrient contents of raw materials can change over time so it’s good practice to review your nutrition declaration approximately every 2 to 3 years. You may need to do this more frequently if you are using a lot of ingredients that have sub-recipes of their own, as your suppliers may also make improvements or changes to their products. Make sure you keep up-to-date specifications or information about all your raw materials so that you are aware if there are any changes that will impact upon your ingredients, allergen and nutrition labels.
Is nutrition information here to stay? What about Brexit?
The idea that following Britain’s decision to leave the EU means that we no longer have to follow EU law is a myth I’m afraid. A spokesperson from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute had said that any changes in food regulation wouldn’t come into effect until at least two years from now so in the meantime the current EU food regulations still stand. The government has even stated that following Brexit there will be greater flexibility for front-of-pack nutrition information, as currently under EU law, it is only voluntary so, it certainly looks like it is here to stay!
If you have now found yourself in the unfortunate position that the 13 December deadline has passed and you have not implemented the new rules on nutrition labelling yet, make sure you take action as soon as possible. AB food nutrition specialises in recipe analysis & nutritional labelling advice, and our confidential, personalised yet cost-effective nutrition labelling solutions make us the ideal partner for a food business of any size.