Nestlé chief: Reduce sugar now before it’s mandatory

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Stefan Catsicas, chief technical officer of Nestlé speaking at the World Food Innovate conference in London
Stefan Catsicas, chief technical officer of Nestlé speaking at the World Food Innovate conference in London

Related tags: Nutrition

At the World Food Innovate conference in London, Stefan Catsicas, chief technical officer of Nestlé described how the food giant is meeting the challenge of making foods healthier without causing a drop in sales.

“Every time we decrease sugar or salt in our products, we lose market share. It’s immediate,”​ he said. “We try to implement this whilst also maintaining taste and sensory perception.”

Catsicas referred to The Nestlé Nutritional Profiling System (NNPS)​, a blueprint that Nestle published last year that described the company’s strategy in reducing sugar, salt and fat whilst maintaining taste.

The main challenge, Catscias explained, was how the addition of salt and sugar could be interpreted as a market advantage.

Whilst there was an industry-wide commitment to reduce unhealthy ingredients, consumers would still lean towards better-tasting products that were produced by one food manufacturer.

Catsicas said that consumers simply didn’t accept strong changes in the taste of a product and would look for alternatives, or add the sugar or salt themselves.

According to Nestlé executive vice president Luis Cantarell, in 2015 alone the company had removed 440 tons of saturated fats, 2600 tons of sugar and 260 tons of salt from its product recipes.

Nutrient profiling

Nestlé's Nutritional Profiling System (NNPS), uses the science of ranking or classifying foods based on their nutrient composition for the purpose of preventing disease and promoting health.

The model can be used for various applications, including the regulation of nutrition and health claims and marketing of food products to children.

For the food industry and Nestle, an important application of nutrient profiling is to assist in developing a more holistic, nutrition-oriented reformulation of their food portfolio.

“If we’re going to produce processed food, we should do it in ways that relate to the ways nature has evolved over millions of years,” ​Catsicas said. “We want to ensure that quality of life is supported by nutrition that is as good as possible.”

“People want to be fed and eat fresh products but I don’t know how this is going to be possible. With city numbers growing beyond 15 million people, I believe our job is to stay as close to nature whilst feeding the majority of the population.”

Current guidelines

global health WHO Asia Russia
"With city numbers growing beyond 15 million people, I believe our job is to stay as close to nature whilst feeding the majority of the population.”(© iStock.com)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Health Assembly have identified the need for the food industry to reduce the amounts of saturated and trans-fat, free sugars and salt in the global food supply.

According to the WHO European Action Plan, new nutrient-rich food products would need to be developed to achieve dietary goals at the population level.

By using international and national dietary guidelines, the NNPS limits specific nutrients in each category, but encourages others.  

For example, it advocates delivering protein and calcium through dairy foods, and wholegrains via cereal-based products.

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