Reformulation

Policy Position

FDF members take their responsibility to help consumers make informed diet choices and achieve healthier lifestyles very seriously. One way industry can respond to this challenge is through food and drink reformulation. We are proud of our voluntary record so far: from world-leading salt reduction, virtual elimination of artificial trans fats, a sugars reduction programme, and soon a calorie reduction programme. Manufacturers are committed to this challenge and it is encouraging to see government now engaging with the out of home sector as they too have an important part to play.

Background

As far back as 2004 FDF launched a sector-wide health and wellbeing manifesto setting out a clear action plan for food and drink manufacturers. Over the years, members have taken a wide range of action to reformulate products, including some of Britain’s most loved brands, to make them healthier while maintaining their great taste.

FDF agrees with dietitians that it is wrong to focus on one single nutrient or ingredient and that we must look for a ‘whole diet and lifestyle’ solution. The emphasis should be on calories, as undue focus on any one nutrient risks misleading the consumer. We also believe strong progress on diet and health is possible through close partnership with Government to deliver a long-term, voluntary programme of work. We are looking forward to the government building on the sugars reduction work to create a holistic reformulation programme, with calorie reduction at its heart over the next year.

Reformulation is important but should not be viewed as a quick fix. It takes time, involves technical challenges and incurs great costs. Ensuring products are acceptable to consumers is also an important consideration. Where reformulation isn’t possible or acceptable to consumers, companies are looking at how to lower portion sizes and encourage switching to healthier alternatives.

To see examples of reformulation in action, view our Feeding Change Report.

Energy

Over the past five years, reformulations by FDF manufacturers has resulted in a 5.5% decrease in calories purchased. FDF is looking forward to collaborating with PHE on the upcoming calorie guidelines, due for publication mid 2019.

It was also pleasing to note the inclusion of calorie caps for single serve products within the PHE reports 'Sugar Reduction: Achieving the 20%' and 'Sugar reduction: juice and milk based drinks'.

Sugars

In August 2016 the government published the Childhood Obesity Plan, which included a challenge to industry (manufactures, retailers, and the out of home sector) to reduce sugars in products by 20% by 2020, with a 5% reduction in the first year. Public Health England (PHE) leads this work and published the baseline report in March 2017, Sugar Reduction: Achieving the 20%. A PHE Report assessing progress for the first year was published in May 2018. On average, industry achieved a 2% reduction in total sugar across the categories. The 5% sugar reduction target was achieved in three categories; breakfast cereals (-5%), sweet spreads and sauces (-5%), yoghurts and fromage frais (-6%). This builds on reformulation work by FDF members over the last five years which has reduced sugars in the average shopping basket by 12.1%.

FDF members have been fully engaged and committed to this ambitious programme, although we believe a 20% sugars reduction by 2020 across all foods covered won’t technically be possible or acceptable to UK customers. Instead, other mechanisms such as lower portion sizes and encouraging consumers to switch to lower-sugars alternatives will need to be used. Full engagement from the entire food industry - manufactures, retailers, and out of home operators - will also be crucial to securing public support for the level of change being asked for.

For more information on sugars reformulation, see the:

Salt

Reformulation to reduce salt is ongoing. Back in 2011, many FDF members signed up to the Responsibility Deal salt targets, indicating their continued commitment to salt reduction. We are proud that over the lifetime of these latest salt targets (2012 to 2017) our members have reduced salt by a further 11.4%, continuing to build on more than 15 years of steady reformulation work. Working with the Department of Health and Public Health England, we are together striving to reduce the average population salt intake to 6 g/day.

Manufacturers have so far removed 64% of salt from breakfast cereals since 1998 and 27% of salt from bread since 2004. There has also been a concurrent decrease in the UK’s population salt intake of 11% since 2004.

Technical issues and consumer acceptance present considerable barriers to further reformulation and the sector continues to look for solutions to reduce salt intakes, and to seek opportunities and support for pre-competitive research and collaborations. For more information, see our salt policy position.

Saturated fats

Many of our members have already reformulated to significantly reduce the amounts of saturated fats in products. For example, there has been a 75% reduction in saturated fats in crisps since 1991.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) draft report on saturated fats and health was subject to consultation, closing on 3rd July 2018. The report provides an update to the evidence and concluded that the DRV for saturated fats should remain at 10% of total energy. A final report is due to be published in summer / autumn 2018. For more information, see our Saturated Fat Policy Statement.

Trans fatty acids

Trans fatty acids (TFAs) are only found at very low levels in foods on the UK market. The latest data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) indicates that intakes in the UK are 0.5-0.6% of food energy, which includes naturally occurring TFA. This means that current intakes are quarter that of the UK government’s recommended maximum TFA intake of 2% of food energy, and below the WHO’s recommendation of less than 1% to prevent diet-related chronic diseases. For more information, see our trans fatty acids policy position.


Last reviewed: 21 Aug 2018