Europe’s food industry drives reformulation of consumer favourites to meet healthier lifestyle goals

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The CIAA (Confederation of the food and drink industries of the EU) today hosted a multi-stakeholder debate highlighting the actions taken by Europe’s food manufacturers to reformulate food and drink products in order to improve their nutritional composition and offer Europe’s consumers a wider range of food choices to suit their diets and lifestyles.

Europe’s food and drink industry is actively working on a voluntary basis (through the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, for example, as well as other fora) to reduce salt, fat, sugar and other nutrients of concern, whilst simultaneously retaining consumer appeal (in terms of taste, texture and appearance), and ensuring the highest standards of food safety and stability. 

Independent researchers, industry representatives and policymakers joined forces to discuss both the successes and challenges of removing or replacing ingredients in a wide range of food products. 

Dr. Wayne Morley, Head of Food Innovation at Leatherhead Food Research, raised some of the technological and scientific challenges associated with reformulation, demonstrating there is no ‘one size fits all’ for food producers, and that consumer acceptance is vital to its success. In addition, company representatives emphasized the importance of focusing on changes that are driven by sound scientific research and which are technologically achievable and legally possible for manufacturers.

Giles Quick, Managing Director of Kantar WorldPanel, provided insight into the impact of reformulation efforts in the UK over time, based on consumer purchasing data as regards average intakes of salt/sodium.  His findings show that reformulation is responsible for 2/3rds of the positive change in salt reduction in the UK, and that reformulation is currently having a greater impact than product or category switching, which can be very difficult to drive among consumers. 

Food manufacturers noted that whilst reformulation is an important step in offering consumers a wider range of dietary choices, it does not work as the ‘miracle pill’ in tackling the complex challenge of obesity and other non-communicable diseases.  Regulatory issues also came to the fore with manufacturers underlining the importance of being able to communicate information to consumers when beneficial changes have been made to the nutritional composition of products and, finally, that there is a need to ensure that companies who reformulate do not experience competitive disadvantage by doing so.

Sylvie Chartron, vice-Chair of the CIAA Diet Task Force, commented:  “Collaboration is vital to successful reformulation, and this event has proved invaluable in bringing stakeholders together to address the key issues.  Going forward, the industry is committed to continuing its efforts on reformulation, where relevant and appropriate, and to responding to consumer demand by offering new choices to meet healthier lifestyle goals.’’

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Ahead of the dinner, member state representatives, EU Platform members and members of the press had the opportunity to visit a number of industry stands and to gain a deeper insight into the multidisciplinary approach adopted by companies in achieving reductions of salt, trans-fatty acids, saturated fat and sugar without compromising on the sensory experience of consumers.

Kantar WorldPanel is the world’s leading provider of continuous, syndicated consumer panels and research solutions into shoppers’ purchase and usage behaviour.  For more information, see:  www.kantarworldpanel.com

Leatherhead Food Research is an independent organisation delivering innovative research, scientific consultancy and regulatory guidance and interpretation. Find out more at:  www.leatherheadfood.com

The EU High Level Group on Nutrition and Physical Activity includes representatives of the different Member States across the EU and in neighbouring observer countries in an effort to develop pan-European approaches to achieving the goals set out in the EC White paper on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related health issues. For more details, visit:
http://ec.europa.eu/health/nutrition_physical_activity/high_level_group/index_en.htm

The EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health is a platform set up by the European Commission (DG SANCO) in 2005 bringing together a wide range of stakeholders from industry to consumer NGOs, who have pledged to tackle current trends in diet and physical activity via commitments. For more information, visit: http://ec.europa.eu/health/nutrition_physical_activity/platform/index_en.htm

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