Nutrition

Time to display the calories

Back in 2018, I wrote a blog discussing some of the evidence and benefits of adding calorie values to menus as part of the strategy to tackle obesity.  At that point, the UK government was proposing to introduce legislation to make this mandatory for the out of home sector in England and since then the COVID-19 pandemic has really shown us the impact obesity has on health and health outcomes.  

That proposal is now a reality with regulations having been laid before parliament to ensure implementation by April 2022.  The new regulation is known as the Calorie Labelling (Out of Home Sector) (England) Regulations 2021.

The new regulations are being introduced to ensure that large businesses display calorie information on menus and food labels in order to help consumers make healthier choices when eating out.  This means cafes, restaurants and takeaways with 250+ employees must provide the calorie information for food and soft drinks at the point of choice – whether that be a physical or online menu, food label or via an online or app-based food order & delivery service.

There are a few points worth highlighting from the draft regulation:

The energy content (kcal) must be provided for a single portion or, if the item is meant for consumption by more than one person, the whole item.

The size of the portion or the number of people it shall serve must also be displayed along with a statement “adults need around 2000kcal a day” (the latter is not required on a children’s only menu).

Foods in scope of the regulation include: those suitable for immediate consumption both on or off the premises; food that isn’t pre-packed or requires further preparation by the consumer before eating e.g. peeling/washing/cooking or re-heating.

There are a number of exempt foods such as: condiments provided to be added by the consumer; foods provided to hospital patients/care home residents/school children; unprocessed single ingredient foods; fresh fruit or veg; food provided by a charity.

Foods not included on the menu that are made at the express request of a customer or have been made in a different way than usual are also exempt from calorie information.

There are concerns from eating disorder charities that the new rules could exacerbate eating disorder thoughts and behaviours or increase stress for those with eating disorders.  With this in mind, the government has included a provision permitting businesses to provide a menu without calorie information at the request of the customer.

As experts in food and nutrition labelling, providing nutrition information for menus and product labels for over 20 years, AB Food Nutrition can work with you to implement the new regulation quickly, easily and cost-effectively.  We calculate the nutrient profile of your recipes based on the ingredients, quantities and cooking methods used. We can even provide suggestions on how to improve the nutritional profile of your recipes so that you can offer customers healthier choices.  For more information, please contact Anne.

Click to subscribe to future blog updates

Becoming an #SBS winner and #SBS Event 2020

On the 2nd December 2019, I became one of Theo Paphitis’ #SBS winners!  SBS means “Small Business Sunday” which was an initiative created by Theo in 2010.  Each Sunday evening, he invites small businesses to describe their businesses in one tweet using the #SBS hashtag.  Every Monday at 8pm, Theo then announces the lucky six who are then re-tweeted providing them with a massive boost in twitter followers, online visibility and for many, increased sales too!

This month, I attended the annual #SBS winners’ event at Birmingham International Convention Centre, where I was able to meet Theo in person and proudly collect my certificate confirming my win.

Anne from AB Food Nutrition collecting SBS Winners certificate from Theo Paphitis

Becoming a winner means I am part of the #SBS club and there are now 3000 of us from across all industries!  To put this into context, there have been 400,000 applications since the launch in 2010 meaning less than 1% of entries have successfully become winners – so I am absolutely delighted to be one of those!  Anyone with their own small business or working as a sole trader like me will appreciate how tough it can be at times and being able to turn to a group (more like a family really), for advice and information is so invaluable.  

Theo's tweet confirming AB Food Nutrition had become one of the six weekly winners

My first attendance at an #SBS event did not disappoint either.  This year was that little bit more special, with it being a celebration of 10 years since Theo first thought to launch the initiative from his kitchen table, but it was a truly inspiring day too.  We heard from excellent and engaging speakers giving us the low down on how to use Google and a whole host of free tools to help promote our businesses better online, how to improve mental well-being in the workplace as well as opportunities to visit breakout presentations from fellow #SBS winners sharing their expertise.  In the afternoon, Theo led an excellent fireside chat interview with fellow TV dragon Sara Davies.

All of this was free to attend too – including lunch!  I made sure I attended armed with my business cards and a bunch of my promotional pens which I left in the ‘food & drink’ networking area of the conference centre.  I am now connected to many more food and drink businesses thanks to this event.

I’m lucky I get to work with some fabulous small businesses and start-ups and so I highly recommend to all of you, that you enter #SBS every week and try to become a winner.  As a winner you will get to create a profile on the Small Business Sunday website and attend the annual #SBS networking event.

For more information on how to enter and increase your chances of winning take a look at https://www.theopaphitissbs.com. Good luck!

With over two decades of food industry experience, Anne founded AB FOOD NUTRITION to help brands ensure they are able to fully inform consumers about the ingredients, allergens and nutrition information legally, whilst also enabling them to make healthier dietary choices.  Anne is a professional, qualified and experienced food nutritionist. Contact us for further information about our nutrition and labelling services.

Click to subscribe to future blog updates

Why you should choose your fats and oils wisely!

You may be fully aware that different cooking oils have different properties and flavours, for example, those with a higher smoke point like sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil are better for roasting and frying, whereas virgin/cold-pressed oils are better kept for use in salad dressings and for drizzling.

But then, there is the media hype – coconut oil being endorsed by celebrities as the latest ‘superfood’ when in reality it contains more saturated fat than butter or lard! There is in fact very limited evidence for the beneficial health effects of coconut oil which is really driven by marketing and not science!  A small amount of fat in the diet is essential of course, to help us absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, but many of us are consuming too much saturated fat.  Earlier this year the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition published their report on the role of saturated fats and health concluding that the current dietary advice did not need to change – in that saturated fats should not exceed around 10% of total food energy.  Swapping saturated fats with unsaturated fats has been found to lower levels of blood cholesterol which in turn lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke and although we all need to take action, food manufacturers and caterers have a particular responsibility in helping people to do this.

So, what can you, as a food producer do when it comes to choosing your cooking oil?

Swapping to an oil higher in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat will not only help to reduce the overall saturated fat content of your products, but could also save you money as well!

However, fatty acids are sensitive to heat, light and oxygen so treat them with care during storage.  Cooking can also change the chemical structure which not only can produce ‘off flavours’ but leads to the destruction of vitamins and loss of nutritional value. 

And finally, remember – all oils are calorie-dense and should be used sparingly, so it’s also a good idea to look for ways to reduce or replace the amount of fats and oils you use in producing your foods.

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 saturated fat in addition to advising on which nutrition or health claims you can use in product marketing.  Contact Anne for further information about our nutrition and labelling services.

Click to subscribe to future blog updates

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.

Click to subscribe to future blog updates

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.

Click to subscribe to future blog updates

Facebook IconTwitter Icontwitter follow button