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Fat is back in fashion, suggest analysts

By Anne Bruce , 10-Jul-2014

Data indicates that sales of fatty foods such as butter are rising as consumers focus on limiting sugar and increasing protein in their diet, says Euromonitor International.

In Western Europe, volume consumption of butter has increased by 36,000 tonnes over 2008-2013, compared to a 26,000 tonnes increase on consumption of spreadable oils and fats, Euromonitor ingredients analyst Lauren Bandy told Foodnavigator.com

In North America, consumption of butter increased by 19,000 tonnes whilst spreadable fats and oils saw a decline in consumption of 62,000 tonnes, she said.

Butter up

Butter was not only a more natural product but many consumers were not prepared to compromise on taste when it came to spreads, she said.

Bandy and colleague Diana Cowland, Senior Health and Wellness Analyst assessed the evidence for a changing perspective on diet in a recent Euromonitor Nutrition podcast on “Attention Turning Away from Fat as an Ingredient”.

They highlighted a recent study by the University of Cambridge in March 2014 which put fat in the media spotlight. (see reference)

The study shows that total saturated fat has no association with heart disease and that the current level of evidence does not clearly support guidelines restricting saturated fatty acid consumption to reduce coronary risk. Nor does it support high consumption of polyunsaturated fats – such as omega 3 or omega 6 – to reduce coronary heart disease.

Limiting sugar

Bandy and Cowland said that while the scientific community had heavily criticised the study, many consumers are now focusing on limiting sugar and increasing protein in their diet rather than focusing on fat consumption.

Cowland said that fat “used to be the ingredient to blame”, with ingredient companies obsessed with finding fat replacers, but now attention was shifting to limiting sugar and increasing protein in the diet.

While sugar and protein were in the limelight of the media, less innovation would likely to be taking place on reduced fat packaged food and beverages, she said. However, opportunities lay in products high in good fat that have been fortified with fat-related functional ingredients such as plant stenols or Omega fatty acids.

It was important that manufacturers looked at products as a whole, not their individual macro-nutrients, particularly as those products which were low in fat were often higher in sugar and as regulation on labelling was set to get stricter. 

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