Reducing portion sizes, suggest food industry observers encouraging food manufacturers in general to downsize their products, could be part of the solution to arrest galloping obesity rate's in Europe.
The UK government estimates that a potential nine out of 10 children could be overweight or obese by 2050.
"Choice is the widest it has ever been, from individual bars, to shared and dual packs," Barbara Gallani, manager of the Biscuit Cake Chocolate and Confectionery (BCCC) sector group at the UK's Food and Drink Federation, told ConfectioneryNews.com.
Honing in on the 'supersize' notion that larger portion sizes may play a role in the obesity epidemic, last year the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) set up a workshop, and a commissioned a report, to look into the relationship between portion size, energy intake and weight gain.
Key areas identified were the portion sizes of foods that contribute most to people’s saturated fat intakes and the sizes of single servings of sweet and savoury snacks and sugary drinks.
"Portion sizes our part of our wider saturated fats and energy intake campaign, and we're encouraging food manufacturers to make foods available in smaller portions," a spokesperson for the agency said to ConfectioneryNews.com.
Gallani, who is part of the FSA stakeholder group that also includes representatives from Nestle, Cadbury and Unilever, as well as the UK's department of health and the National Consumer Federation, stated that "a lot of work has been done in the confectionery sector to satisfy the consumer."
At the stakeholder meeting in October last year the group discussed pre-portioned products, particularly single serve items, as part of the industry action to reduce portion size.
"We debated whether consumers understand visual or volumetric measures better than weight, for example, a portion of two biscuits, as opposed to the equivalent in weight," said Gallani, adding that industry will be looking further into this area.
And in terms of calorie consumption per portion and the role this could play in tackling obesity, the BCCC manager commented that calorific information is today "readily available" to the consumer, regardless of the portion size.
"All FDF members are working towards providing calorie information on front of pack, as well as specific nutrients like sugar and sodium," she said.
Underlining the need for a greater body of knowledge to contribute to the portion size debate, Gallani added that at the October FSA meeting it felt the agency was "concentrating on snacks and sweets", a position not fully justified by research.
"Obesity is a complex problem, and there is not just one solution," she said.
And crucially, stated Gallani, a reduction in weight for the product would not, due to the plethora of factors involved in product formulation and production, be matched by an equivalent drop in price.
"Demand is a key issue of the industry. It wouldn't be easy to sell the consumer a smaller product, for just about the same price," commented Gallani.