Cooking up a formula for success in drive to encourage healthy eating – Joanne Burns

In January, many of us are thinking about making ­lifestyle changes, including exercising more and eating more healthily. Food businesses can ­support their consumers by ­reformulating the recipes of their products to make them healthier.

Joanne Burns, Reformulation Project Manager, Food and Drink Federation Scotland

Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland is delighted to launch a new nationwide reformulation challenge – Reformul8 – that will support small to medium-sized food businesses across Scotland to play their part.

We are working in partnership with all 32 local authorities to get as many businesses involved as ­possible. The challenge presents an excellent opportunity for different parts of the food industry to work together to improve the health of the Scottish people.

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Whether you are a food manufacturer, including butchers, bakers or ingredients manufacturers, or a food service business such as a café or takeaway – this challenge is for you! Not only is it a great time of the year to meet consumer demand, ultimately you will be helping to improve public health in your local community.

Food and drink companies have had a great deal of success reformulating their recipes, which is why it is rated as one of the most effective ways industry can help to target ­obesity. But what does it actually mean?

­Simply put, it is where a product is made healthier. This might mean amending the recipe, providing clearer information on portion size or changing the way it is prepared.

But it is not an easy process. Each function of an ingredient must be considered. Sugar, for example, plays many different roles in a recipe – it gives the rise, colour and texture in a cake, as well as adding flavour. Food and drink companies take great care to ensure that these changes are made without compromising a food’s safety, quality or taste.

In Scotland, 95 per cent of food and drink companies are small to medium businesses. These companies may lack the time or resources to even start thinking about reformulation. The Reformul8 challenge will help them to kickstart the process. Each business that takes part will be provided with a wide range of ­support from an appointed champion in their local authority area.

The project is based on eight core principles, including reducing fat, salt or ­sugars, reducing overall calories or portion sizes, increasing fibre, or fruit and vegetables within foods, replacing ingredients with healthier alternatives, and even using labelling to recommend cooking techniques, portion size and serving suggestions.

The local champion will work with the business to select a range of ­products to be reformulated and which steps will be the main area of focus for each product. It is a good idea to focus on top sellers as they are more likely to have a greater impact on improving the health of your consumers. It is also worth considering reformulating a core ingredient that will make ­several recipes healthier such as pie ­casings, meat seasonings or cake mixes or swapping to healthier ingredients and cooking methods for food service businesses.

It is important to work with ingredient suppliers to find out if there are any off the shelf solutions, such as a lower fat pastry or reduced salt seasoning that could support your efforts. In some cases, they may even be able to create a bespoke solution that is healthier than your current ingredients. Where appropriate we can also link you up with similar ­businesses across Scotland who may have the same reformulation aims, for some peer-to-peer learning, ­motivation and support.

Each business taking part in the challenge will benefit from a range of media support from FDF Scotland where we will celebrate the great work you are doing within your community to improve dietary health.

This challenge forms part of FDF Scotland’s Reformulation for Health programme, which is funded by the Scottish Government, to help and support small and medium sized food companies to make their products healthier. To make a significant impact on improving the health of the Scottish people we need at least ten food businesses from each local authority to take part. If you are interested, please get in touch with FDF Scotland or the Environmental Health team within your local authority area.

Joanne Burns, reformulation project manager, Food and Drink Federation Scotland.