In the UK, the food landscape is changing fast. 

With obesity now the second biggest preventable cause of death after smoking, the government is putting real pressure on the food industry to deliver healthier foods, as they try to improve the country’s diet.

Producing products that meet these requirements in terms of lower calories, less sugar and reduced levels of saturated fat is a huge challenge for food manufacturers – and one that’s having a big impact throughout the supply chain.

Facing up to the challenge

When it comes to supporting healthier diets, there are several obstacles that need to be overcome.

First, and perhaps foremost, is a reluctance amongst consumers to change their eating habits. Consumers are sold on the benefits of healthy eating, but they don’t want to compromise when it comes to the flavour or texture of their favourite foods.

Second, the industry is being asked to deliver healthier versions of their existing products that are indistinguishable from the original version, all in a commercially viable, cost-effective and sustainable manner.

Achieving this goal poses a major challenge for any business. To find solutions, collaboration is vital at every stage, between government, retailers, food manufacturers and ingredient suppliers.

Total composition vs ingredient reduction and replacement

Traditionally, the approach when making existing foods healthier has been to reduce quantities of sugar or fat, or by isolate single ingredients and replace them, without changing the recipe as a whole.

In reality, this often leads to the creation of a very different product in terms of look, taste and texture. Products that are seen as a compromise by consumers don’t do well commercially!

At AAK, we believe a better solution is to take a more holistic, synergistic approach to product development. In practice, this means examining how different ingredients work together, and how they can be made to interact with each other more effectively to produce a healthier product that looks, eats and tastes as good as the original.

Delivering change through oils and fats

Oils and fats form a big part of this solution – and not just in terms of reducing saturated fat levels. The synergies between fats and oils and other ingredients in a recipe can solve a number of other challenges when it comes to creating healthier products.

For example, how we experience the sweetness of a food depends heavily on the type of fat in the product - almost as much as the type (and quantity) of sugar. Rather than replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners, adjusting the type of fat used can result in a product that needs less sugar, but is just as sweet.

In many cases, it’s possible to solve multiple challenges at once, such as making products both suitable for vegans, and lower in saturated fat.

Collaboration and product development

At AAK, we believe that healthy product reformulation works best when the technical teams of both food manufacturers and ingredient suppliers work together. It’s something we’ve been doing with our existing clients for some time now - through our INNOBO (Innovation Beyond Oils) programme.

The approach is already delivering real results.

Supporting brands and private labels, we’re working closely with manufacturers to reformulate cakes, pastries, sweet bakes and cookies. Many of these products are now on the shelves, and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Customers haven’t noticed a difference, and in many cases, product sales have actually increased.

Going forward, we’re going to continue to promote this approach, as we look to support food manufacturers nationwide in their ongoing efforts to make existing products healthier.

For additional information about ingredient synergy, the INNOBO programme and how we can help you to create healthier versions of your existing products, please contact us today.