Nutritionists have been encouraging us to eat more fruit, veg and whole grains for decades - but this approach has failed to tackle issues like obesity and diabetes. Reformulation is therefore seen as key to securing a healthier and more sustainable future for food. FoodNavigator’s recent Positive Nutrition Summit, a face-to-face event held in London in March examined, among other things, how public health challenges can be met through technical advances and ingredient innovation.
The topic of HFSS products, those high in fat, salt and sugar, is a particularly hot one in the UK where the government has just introduced new location restrictions of these product categories. But there are similar rules in other parts of Europe.
One panel discussion at the event discussed how innovative new R&D strategies and ingredient solutions are unlocking opportunities to cut salt, fat or sugar without sacrificing taste, and asked how far can these emerging technologies drive HFSS reduction?
Susan Gafsen, founder and director of HFSS-compliant Pepp & Lekker and Cathy Mosely, CEO of rival healthy snacking brand Boundless Activated Snacking urged food formulators to use natural kitchen cupboard ingredients, with each one being carefully chosen for nutritional value and taste.
"It does take innovation,” said Mosely. “As a start-up we are there to challenge the status quo and change what is already on the shelf. I think that using ingredients that consumers can understand is a really good opportunity currently. But you may have to be honest that your profit isn't going to be as great because you're going to have to think about using ingredients that don't just have the longest shelf-life forever. But this is the consumer demand and I think snacking has long healthy future."
Tate & Lyle Head of Category Development Saquib Ramday stressed the importance of working with FMCGs to reduce sugar and calories.
"I don't disagree with starting from scratch and formulating bottom up without the need of some of the ingredient solutions that companies like ourselves provide,” he told the audience. “But we also know that consumers are creatures of habit, are time poor are faced with all sorts of challenges in their day to day and everyone craves a treat and yearns for the familiarity of taste that we are used to. That's where we see ourselves playing a role, in helping the major multinationals in taking their large mainstream brands and either silently or via claims and messaging, and repositioning them to ultimately allow consumers to make healthier choices. Consumers will always want a bit of indulgence but if over time if we can trend down that sweetness and salt association we can train new habits. Hopefully in ten years’ time obesity and diabetes will be declining instead of rising.”
Flora Zwolinksi, senior insight manager at Lumina Intelligence, warned that HFSS policies will only work if the end products remain affordable for mainstream audiences. “Sadly we see that it's low income families who de-prioritize taste and heath so HFSS policy won't work if it compromises the taste, flavour and cost of the product.”
Listen now to FoodNavigator’s podcast to hear the panel discussion in full.