Unilever - reformulation case studies

“In setting reformulation targets using the Nutrition Enhancement Programme it is important to recognise that any changes need to be made without compromising product safety and taste.

Our dual aim is to make foods healthier and take our consumers with us. It's essential we don't jeopardise their enjoyment of our brands”

Paul Nevett, VP Foods Marketing, Unilever UK & Ireland

  • The Nutrition Enhancement Programme has been in place since 2003.
  • The sheer size of the Unilever portfolio means the programme has taken more than 25 nutritionists working full time over 3 years.
  • 30,000 tonnes of trans fat, 27,000 tonnes of sugars, 12,500 tonnes of saturated fat and 3,500 tonnes of sodium have been removed from across the global portfolio.
  • Internationally accepted dietary advice is used to assess all food and drinks and make improvements where possible.
  • Significant company resource and investment has been deployed.

At Unilever, giving consumers a range of options is just as important as reformulating products. This is demonstrated in the Hellman's range, where the Real Mayonnaise contains 80% fat, the light version contains 27% fat and the extra light version just 3% fat.

Hellmann's mayonaise jarsEven within these options, reformulation has made brands even healthier. For example, Hellmann's Light has 3% less fat and 25% less salt. The Extra Light variant employs a new technology using natural citrus fibre to reduce oil and calorie content whilst maintaining a creamy texture.

Unilever's Vitality mission 'to help people look good, feel good and get more out of life' shows a commitment to growing the business. As one of the world's leading food businesses, the brand portfolio and nutrition expertise makes it well-placed to drive change in this area.

In 2003, Unilever embarked on its Nutrition Enhancement Programme (NEP), which uses internationally-accepted dietary advice, including World Health Organisation maximum levels of trans fats, saturated fats sugars and salt.

Using a single nutrient profile, the entire food and beverage portfolio of over 22,000 products has been evaluated, giving clear direction for nutritional improvements.

Since 2005, reformulation against NEP standards resulted in the removal of 30,000 tonnes of trans fat, 27,000 tonnes of sugars, 12,500 tonnes of saturated fat and 3,500 tonnes of sodium from across the global portfolio.

In the UK, a number of brands have undergone significant reformulation as part of the programme. Salt levels have been reduced on average by 30% since 2003 in all soups and sauces (Knorr, Chicken Tonight, Knorr Ragu and Colman's); the Lipton Ice tea range has 10% less sugar; and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter has 22% less saturated fat and 16% less salt.

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Last reviewed: 06 Jul 2009