Reformulation in Portugal: good results come from co-operation and self-regulation

Published: 07/03/2022

Answering to consumers’ needs and consumption trends are, as we all know, the focus of the food and drink industry. More sustainable or nutritionally improved products adapted to healthier lifestyles are some of the examples that define the new demand.

In Portugal, companies have been keenly aware of these market changes and, in the last decade, one of the priorities for the sector has been, precisely, the nutritional reformulation of its products*.

In this sense, and in order to recognise and increase the visibility of this work, FIPA (the Federation of Portuguese Agri-Food Industries) began a process of collaboration with key partners in the private sector and with public and governmental entities.

After an intense period of dialogue, strategy and milestones definition, in May 2019, a protocol was signed, aiming to progressively reduce the levels of sugar, salt and trans fats in a selected set of food product categories* by 2022/2023.

This innovative and voluntary protocol brought together the food and beverages industry (represented by us – FIPA – and our sector associations from Portugal), the retail industry (represented by APED – Portuguese Association of Retail Companies) and the Portuguese Ministry of Health. The latter also counted with joint forces of the prestigious National Institute of Health Dr. Ricardo Jorge (INSA) and NielsenIQ on the independent monitoring process.

More recently, in February this year, the midterm progress report of this reformulation process was presented, and the numbers are self-descriptive:

·     Between 2018 and 2021, an overall reduction of 11.5% and 11.1% was achieved in the average salt and sugar content (g/100g), respectively, and it is estimated, in total volume, a reduction of 25.6 tons of salt and around 6256.1 tons of sugar in the foods covered by these joint commitments.

·     About 50% of the food product categories analysed have already met or exceeded the targets set in these commitments for the end of 2022.

Above all, it should be noted that, despite food innovation and research being a complex challenge, sector companies have provided a solid commitment to engage in reformulation activities.

Therefore, first and foremost, these results are a real proof of the strong commitments of food and beverage companies to provide consumers with a diversified offer with high nutritional quality standards. Furthermore, it demonstrates that self-regulation and collaboration between food system entities are effective in promoting sustainable and healthy habits.

And last but not least, although we all know that industry is sometimes the target of criticism, we were especially pleased to see several Portuguese food and health sector representatives praising and acknowledging these results.

This project is not yet finished. We will continue this collaborative and voluntary work, above all, for the benefit of the consumer.

* The categories analysed were: salt content levels – ‘Potato chips and other salty snacks’, ‘pizzas’ and ‘breakfast cereals’; sugar content levels – ‘soft drinks’, ‘fruit nectars’, ‘yogurts’, ‘fermented milk’, ‘flavoured milk’ and also ‘breakfast cereals’.