Kellogg’s 12-month quest to reduce salt in Special K

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Kellogg's Special K line up has been reformulated to contain around 20% less sodium. Pic: Kellogg's
Kellogg's Special K line up has been reformulated to contain around 20% less sodium. Pic: Kellogg's

Related tags: Kellogg Europe, Special K, Sodium, Sugar, Wellbeing Manifesto, Carbon footprint, Packaging, Plastic, HFSS

After a year of tinkering around, the breakfast cereal giant’s food developers have successfully reduced the sodium content in its Special K cereal range by around 20% – without dramatically changing its iconic flavour profile.

Kellogg’s has announced the salt in one of its biggest cereal brands has been reduced by an average of 19.8%, making five of the seven varieties of Special K non-HFSS (high in fat, salt and sugar), in accordance with the upcoming UK guidelines.

The move is also in line with Kellogg’s Wellbeing Manifesto for its European business unveiled last year.

Over the next decade, the company has pledged to further improve its foods so they are better for people, the community and the planet.

Its plan aims to:

  • Reduce salt by 20% and sugar by 10% – most importantly, without affecting the taste – by the end of 2022;
  • Get all its kid’s cereals classified as either Nutri-Score B or better in the EU and non-HFSS in the UK;
  • Address Europe’s chronic lack of fibre by ramping it up in its foods by the end of 2023;
  • Strip out 700 tonnes of carbon from its operations as a result of packaging changes, including a new type of cereal box that contains less air space and almost 190 tonnes less cardboard and plastic annually;
  • Feed more than 30 million people in need by the end of 2030 through its Better Days purpose platform.

“Over the past year, we’ve done a lot of work to reduce things like sugar and salt while keeping the same great taste people expect from our foods. And we’ll continue to act here as we know it is important,”​ said Dave Lawlor, Kellogg Europe president.

“But the impact of our food is much broader than just what goes in the box. It’s about how we grow our ingredients and the impact we have on the planet and how we cook and make our food. It’s also about the social and emotional role of food and how it brings people together.”

He added, “Our company was founded in 1906 by a visionary vegetarian who believed that a plant-based diet was the right diet. [This Manifesto] is a continuation of that idea but updated for the 21st century by looking at the total impact of our food on people and the planet.”

The long ride

Special K was developed in 1955 originally for men, but today appears on the breakfast tables of nearly three million Brits – so flavour is an essential make or break criteria.

This made the reformulation process particularly challenging for Kellogg’s team of food and sensory experts. Salt not only adds flavour, but enhances other ingredients, so even the slightest decrease will dramatically affect the end taste.

To overcome this, the team employed specialised techniques that take into consideration how people’s tastebuds react to flavours, reducing the salt content a little at a time.

Over 10 new recipes were created to find the right one that kept the famous Special K taste – garnering a thumbs up from 59% of the taste testers.

New equipment has also been added to the Special K production process in Kellogg’s factory in Wrexham, North Wales, to enable the manufacturer to make the new recipe food.

“We are committed to making the best quality food and helping people to make better choices in the morning,”​ said Catherine Logan, Kellogg UKI Wellbeing lead.

“It’s taken Kellogg’s food developers 12 months to reformulate the well-loved Special K cereal to include less salt but keeping the same iconic taste.”

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