University of Nottingham releases factsheet to help producers slash fat content

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

UK producers are increasingly being put under pressure to relook at the fat content of their products. Pic: GettyImages/vasata
UK producers are increasingly being put under pressure to relook at the fat content of their products. Pic: GettyImages/vasata

Related tags Fat content HFSS Food Innovation Centre University of Nottingham

The Fat Reduction Factsheet is the latest in a series of expert guidance factsheets published by the University’s Food Innovation Centre to help producers become more sustainable and create healthier treats.

The need for expert guidance is bang on target. In the UK today, 1 in 4 adults – and sadly, 1 in 5 children – are classed as obese. To fight the rising crisis, the government is putting the brakes on products deemed high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS).

To this end, it is introducing new rules for HFSS products that – when implemented in October next year – will affect the advertising of HFSS brands, volume promotions and the display of HFSS products instore.

The need for energy

It’s far harder in practice to slash the fat content than it is in theory. The challenges in cutting back include shelf life and product processibility, regulatory issues (partially hydrogenated fats are not allowed in foods, so producers must select approved replacers) and cost.

Then there’s consumer acceptance. Fats and oils (liquid fats) are important to food texture and flavour. They are also an essential part of a healthy diet, as they provide the protein and carbs needed for energy, essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins.

However, like ‘good cop/bad cop’, there are some types of fats that ought to be reduced or replaced. However, like ‘good cop/bad cop’, there are some types of fats that increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and some types of cancers.

According to Orion Market Research, in the UK, the fat replacer market is projected to grow 6.6.% each year until 2026, driven by the consumer shift towards healthier dietary habits.

In an interview with Joe Harriman, HFSS Strategic Consultant at IRI,​ BakeryandSnacks learnt that the categories particularly feeling the pressure include bakery and snacks, so it doesn’t make sense to ‘play ostrich’.

The do’s and don’ts

The Fat Reduction Factsheet fingers those types of fats that need reducing or replacing, talks about the challenges in reducing so-called ‘bad fats’, and comes up with ideas of how manufacturers can incorporate fat replacers in their products that will be acceptable to consumers and will overcome any technical and cost challenges.

“Fat reduction in food and drink is a very topical subject and we hope that the Food Innovation Centre’s latest factsheet will be useful to small and medium-sized businesses that are looking to cut the saturated fats in their products,”​ said research fellow Dr Wentao (Kerry) Liu, who compiled the Factsheet.

He is also one of the advisors at the Food Innovation Centre based at the University of Nottingham School of Biosciences’ Sutton Bonington campus that offers free expert guidance to SMME producers in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire under the Driving Research and Innovation project.

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) via the D2N2 LEP, the project is run by the Centre in conjunction with the Chemistry Innovation Laboratory at the School of Chemistry and Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and in association with the Midlands Engine. The three-year project runs until the end of 2022.

"We have produced a range of helpful factsheets around sustainable production and healthy eating, and this latest one turns the spotlight on fat reduction," ​said Richard Worrall, who leads Driving Research and Innovation.

“Excessive fat intake causes public health issues, but we also know that there is an increased preference for healthy eating currently, with consumers demanding healthier food, so it makes good commercial sense for businesses to focus on this issue.”

The Fat Reduction Factsheet​ can be downloaded here.

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