Could regulation tempt the industry to renew focus on low fat foods?

7 Nov 2018

The UK government aims to cut calories by 20% by 2024 in a range of popular foods, potentially shifting focus back onto foods’ fat content as companies strive to reach this target.

Could regulation tempt the industry to renew focus on low fat foods?

Regulators announced the calorie reduction target in March 2018 as part of a public health package that goes beyond a previous focus on sugar and salt reduction. The government called on industry to cut calories in 13 categories of foods and drinks that account for about a fifth of UK children’s caloric intake, including pizza, pre-made sandwiches, ready meals, savoury snacks and meat products. It has suggested the target could be achieved through a variety of measures, including reformulation, reducing portion sizes, and promoting lower calorie products.

Considering that fat, with its nine calories per gram, is more calorific than carbohydrate or protein, which contain four calories per gram, industry may be tempted to focus its efforts on fat reduction – a strategy that has backfired in the past. During the 1980s when low fat foods were widely considered healthier than their full fat counterparts, many food manufacturers replaced fat with sugars and other carbohydrates to make up for the differences in flavour, texture and structure in low fat products. But even as people ate more low fat foods, their average caloric intake increased. Research carried out since then suggests this is because people tend to eat bigger portions if foods are labelled ‘low fat’, and also because fat helps increase satiety, leading people to eat less overall.

To avoid a similar outcome, there are now more innovative ways to reduce fat – and therefore calories. Leatherhead Food Research predicts a rise in the use of gums, fibres and starches to improve texture and stability, and to mimic the properties of fats. In addition, it has suggested that water-in-oil-in-water emulsions may come to the fore as a way to slash calories without adding other potentially harmful ingredients.

Ingredient companies are beginning to respond with new products targeted to the government’s goal too. Ulrick & Short, for example, has introduced an ingredient based on wheat flour intended to cut fat in pastries by up to 25%.

Rising obesity rates make calorie reduction an important public health goal, and manufacturers are already under pressure to cut sugar in a wide range of foods and drinks. Industry has long bemoaned regulation that focuses on single ingredients, so the UK government’s latest plan has been welcomed by many in the industry as it allows for calorie reduction efforts that consider entire recipes.

However, product formulators will need to tread carefully in their approach, and must be mindful of potential unintended consequences. Fat reduction alone may seem to be a relatively simple solution, but a strategy that combines reformulation with revised portion sizes is likely to reap longer term results.

Read more news about 'Fat Replacers'

Related news

Egg substitutes driven by vegan, allergen-free demand

Egg substitutes driven by vegan, allergen-free demand

13 Nov 2018

Egg replacers have long been used as a way to avoid to the price fluctuations often associated with real eggs, but recently interest has been driven by manufacturer demand for clean label and plant-based ingredients, allowing companies to make more veg...

Read more 
Whey protein on the rise across food categories

Whey protein on the rise across food categories

13 Nov 2018

Whey protein remains the most popular protein ingredient for athletes by far, but numerous whey protein ingredients have emerged over the past few years, in applications that take it well beyond sports nutrition.

Read more 
Allergen-free foods gain momentum

Allergen-free foods gain momentum

5 Nov 2018

Launches of allergen-free foods have increased in recent years – and not just because of increased prevalence of food allergy.

Read more 
Enzyme technology slashes sugar in fruit juice

Enzyme technology slashes sugar in fruit juice

2 Nov 2018

Israeli researchers have developed a new technology to cut sugar by up to 80% in fruit juice, by using enzymes that boost the fibre content at the same time.

Read more 
What can blockchain do for the food industry?

What can blockchain do for the food industry?

1 Nov 2018

International food companies have started to embrace blockchain technology to help trace food and ingredients all along the supply chain. What are the potential benefits for the industry?

Read more 
The mainstreaming of meat alternatives

The mainstreaming of meat alternatives

26 Oct 2018

Tofu and lentils still have their place in a vegetarian diet, but a new generation of meat alternatives makes it easier than ever for consumers to switch to plant-based options – even the most enthusiastic meat eaters.

Read more 
Industry innovation targets gelatine alternatives

Industry innovation targets gelatine alternatives

26 Oct 2018

Many alternatives to animal-derived gelatine already exist, although none is a perfect replacement. Now, rising interest in vegetarian ingredients has led to a new wave of innovation in the sector.

Read more 
Finding the sweet spot for low sugar sports drinks

Finding the sweet spot for low sugar sports drinks

25 Oct 2018

Demand for natural, low sugar sports drinks is increasing, raising opportunities for manufacturers to explore alternative ingredients and sweeteners that appeal to health-conscious consumers.

Read more 
Action on Salt: salt content of non-meat alternatives is excessive

Action on Salt: salt content of non-meat alternatives is "excessive"

24 Oct 2018

The UK’s Action on Salt pressure group has exposed what it claims are excessive amounts of salt in ‘healthy’ processed meat alternatives and demand urgent action from Public Health England.

Read more 
Clean label comes ahead of brand

Clean label comes ahead of brand

17 Oct 2018

Consumers are now more interested in clean label ingredients instead of product descriptions or the brand name itself, when shopping for new foods and drinks, according to a new global survey – highlighting the ongoing importance of clean label product...

Read more