Our recipe for change

“There are very significant technical, financial and consumer challenges that companies have to overcome with every recipe development” - Melanie Leech, FDF.

Melanie Leech is the Director General of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).

Melanie Leech - FDF Director GeneralThe UK food and drink sector is hugely innovative. And it's thanks to our sector's world class capabilities in research and development, and its deep knowledge of consumers, that our members have been able to respond so positively in the ongoing debates about the health of the nation by developing new products for consumers and refreshing old favourites so that they are lower in fat, sugar or salt.

Changing the recipes of much-loved British brands is a complex task – and it needs to be done in a way that does not impact functionality, quality or price.

Our members have been voluntarily embracing this particular challenge for a number of years, and they are now leading the way when it comes to the reformulation of popular products – meeting consumer concerns about health in a way that doesn't make any compromises on taste.

Our report profiles the work of member companies of all sizes, from the biggest multinational to smaller private operators, working across every type of product category. We asked each of these companies to focus on one aspect of their innovation projects – as a way of giving you a flavour of all the work currently underway across our sector.

Each case study will help you to understand the very significant technical, financial and consumer challenges that companies need to overcome with every new product or recipe development.

I believe you will be impressed by the individual stories that jump off each page in this report; but remember these are just a small sample of the huge range of voluntary initiatives being taken by food and drink companies across the country.

Change on this scale requires a huge financial commitment by business. The recession is clearly forcing companies to reprioritise their investment decisions, and policy makers and regulators do need to be sympathetic to the immediate economic pressures faced by food and drink companies. They may need to be more realistic about the pace at which our members can be expected to keep delivering new and expensive innovations in what has become a very competitive, value-driven market.

That said, everybody should be absolutely clear, our members remain totally focused on delivering the best possible products for consumers. This report (pdf, 994kb) is, therefore, a timely reminder that our commitment to healthier recipes is long-standing – in fact, it was a key pillar of the industry health and wellbeing action plan unveiled by Food and Drink Federation members way back in 2004.

You will not just hear from members of the FDF in this report. You will see that we have asked a number of experts to give their perspective.

  • Why do they believe changes to products are so important?
  • What do they think has been achieved to date?
  • And what hurdles are now facing manufacturers?

The answers can be found in the thoughtful essays that appear at the start of this report.

  • Is reformulation the sole answer to society's concerns about the health of the nation?

Of course not. That's why our sector is focusing on a range of areas where we know we can make the biggest difference. Whether it's the provision of clearer on-pack nutrition labelling or the introduction of workplace wellbeing schemes, our members are leading the way.

We are also committed to continue working in genuine partnership with Government and others to deliver long-term solutions that will improve the health of the nation.

We feel these are all important ingredients for any successful public health strategy. Or to put it another way… this is our recipe for change.

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Last reviewed: 06 Jul 2009