“It is broadly accepted that whole population strategies such as reformulation that remove the onus from the individual to make the ‘healthier’ choice can be effective,” says IGD.
“Furthermore, 77% of shoppers claim to be happy for recipes to be made healthier as long as they’re still tasty, according to IGD ShopperVista Base. So why hasn’t reformulation had a greater impact on public health?”
Although reformulation has been central to UK government health strategies since the salt reduction programme was introduced in 2006. Since then, there have been numerous targets and programmes for fat, sugar and calories, with the majority of programmes run on a voluntary basis.
IGD says reformulation will not be the answer for all categories and solutions such as portion size reduction may be a more effective approach, and companies would welcome guidance on this.
Most reformulation targets have focused on fat, salt, sugar, and calories. Government targets are not holistic and do not consider the composition of the whole product. For example, a product may be reduced in sugar without resulting in fewer calories, having limited impact on obesity.
There is widespread industry support for including positive nutrients and ingredients in the context of wider reformulation targets, where it will be beneficial for consumers’ health. This could include, fruits and vegetables, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
Health is more of a driver for consumers to purchase than the environment, IGD’s 2020 Appetite for Change report demonstrates, says Pearse. "Consumers generally struggle to understand the link between food and climate outcome. It is difficult to balance nutrition targets with sustainability priorities – the two aren’t always considered together and there's currently no consistent definition or way to measure ‘health and sustainability’ outcomes."
IGD says many companies are working towards ‘net zero’ targets but to achieve this there is a clear need to work collaboratively to drive down emissions through the supply chain. The whole food chain should be considered from farm-level to fork, for improved environmental outcomes.