Helping the food and drink industry to reformulate healthier products - Joanne Burns
The pandemic made people focus on the importance of dietary health and wellbeing. It is an excellent time for businesses to help their consumers to achieve a healthier balanced diet.
Through Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland’s Reformulation for Health programme, funded by Scottish Government, I am helping small and medium sized food companies across Scotland to make their products healthier though recipe reformulation. This support is free and open to both members and non-members of the FDF.
Reformulation, where a product is made healthier, is rated as one of the most effective ways the food and drink industry can help people to improve their dietary health. This can include reducing fat, salt or sugars, reducing overall calories or portion sizes. But reformulation is not just about reducing nutrients in our foods. It can also mean increasing fibre, fruit and vegetable content as well as replacing ingredients with healthier alternatives, and using labelling to recommend cooking techniques, portion size and serving suggestions.
The associated costs of reformulation can be challenging for some food and drink businesses. Costs can include testing ingredient alternatives, implementing new processes and equipment and nutritional testing.
In response to this and to support industry recovery we opened a pilot Reformul8 Challenge in December 2020. The fund was significantly over-subscribed, this demand highlighted the breadth and drive for reformulation support across Scotland. We were delighted to fund 19 reformulation projects from small island producers to much-loved Scottish brands.
The fund has allowed me to work with an amazing group of businesses from butchers and bakers to ready meal makers. The range of projects includes fibre enrichment, fat and salt reduction to reducing portion sizes and sugar alternatives for bakery use.
Macsween of Edinburgh saw the fund as an opportunity to adapt traditional products such as haggis and black pudding into healthier, lower-fat versions and encourage consumers to make positive food and health choices, without compromising on taste and texture. Strathmore Foods, one of the UK’s leading ready meal manufacturers, are working to lower salt and calories across their range to meet UK-wide health targets. Their sales volumes mean a 10% reduction in calories and salt could add up to some huge figures. While Tower Bakery in Perthshire used the fund to double the fibre content in some of their bakery products, growing their business in the school provision sector.
Aware of the growing health trend Arran Dairies are using the fund to explore creating a healthier recipe for their ice-cream by trialling lower sugar and fat formulations benefiting their consumers and the local community, through a healthier product.
Continued financial support is crucial to help even more businesses to improve the health of their products and ultimately their consumers. We are exploring funding options from the Scotland Food & Drink Partnership Recovery Plan to support this.
If food and drink businesses are interested in finding out more about the support we provide please get in touch.
Joanne Burns, Reformulation for Health Manager, Food and Drink Federation Scotland
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