Product reformulation: ‘Scotland has a larder that is the envy of Europe, but we have some work to do to improve our diets’

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags FDF Scotland Food and drink federation Reformulation for Health HFSS LoSalt Univar Solutions Obesity Bells Food Group Ulrick & short ForrestBrown

Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland celebrated the success of its government-funded Reformulation for Health Programme – which, to date, has removed hundreds of millions of calories and tonnes of salt from the Scottish diet. However, as Scotland’s national chef and MasterChef the Professionals champion Gary Mclean admits, there is still work to do.

BakeryandSnacks attended the FDF Scotland’s Reformulation for Health​ Showcase held at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh last week, headlined by Scottish Public Health Minister Maree Todd.

“The case for change is really stark,”​ said Todd, noting in Scotland, two thirds of the adult population and 30% of children are overweight or obese – which “increases substantially for adults and children in more deprived areas.”

Rising to the challenge

According to FDF Scotland, recipe reformulation is one of the most effective ways industry can help improve dietary health.

“We are working with a range of food and drink businesses who have made small changes to their recipes that are making a big difference to the health of Scotland’s people,”​ said Joanne Burns, FDF Scotland’s Reformulation for Health manager.

“We’ve [tackled] some fantastic projects over the past few years … and seeing an increase in the health profile of some of the products that are being sold in Scotland.”

Highlighted were the moves made by Bells Food Group, Arran Dairies and Macsween of Edinburgh, but there are a wealth of other success stories too. Scotland’s top pie brand Bells has cut the salt content of its pie shells by half, Arran Dairies will soon launch a lower calorie ice cream and Macsween of Edinburgh is working with ingredient manufacturer Ulrick & Short to reduce the fat content of its traditional haggis recipe.

“So, we really want to celebrate the work that’s been done and the network and awareness-raising over the past few years.”

Added Todd, “The Scottish government is committed to providing practical support small and medium enterprises, so called SMEs, to help them to reformulate their products, making them healthier. Over the past few years, we’ve invested over £300,000 to support SMEs, to reformulate commonly consumed products.

“And I commend Scottish businesses for rising to that challenge. You’ve played a vital role in improving dietary house by removing hundreds of millions of calories from Scottish food and drink products.

“That's not just for the health of our nation, but by using these innovative practices, we can enhance our reputation as producers of healthier quality produce. And while larger companies might have their own research and development departments at their disposal, other SMEs need to collaborate to succeed. And this means working across sectors and with support agencies … so that together we can realise both the public health and the commercial benefits of reformulation.”

Scotland’s National Chef Gary Maclean added that while Scotland’s larder might be the envy of Europe, “we have some work to do to improve our diets. It is great to see positive action towards a healthier Scotland and to see the incredible talent we have working towards this.

“I think the biggest advice would probably be to actually think about what it is you’re putting in your products. I firmly believe that people will pay a little bit more for something that is healthier or made with quality ingredients.

“People have got a real sense of not only what they’re putting in their bodies, but also about where does that food come from? What impact does it have on the planet?”

How we can help

Along with a range of presentations by Kantar, Food Standards Scotland and the Scottish Grocers Federation, among others, FDF Scotland’s event provided a platform for a handful of exhibitors, including low sodium producers LoSalt, Peacock Salt and Saltwell, ingredient producers Univar Solutions, Kregliner Specialities and Cardowan Creameries, and specialist service providers Scottish Centre for Food Development & Innovation, and R&D tax credit consultancy ForrestBrown, among others.

“I’m here today really to compel manufacturers that we need to do something and provide them a way of achieving this,”​ said Caroline Klinge, sales and marketing director of LoSalt, a sentiment that was echoed by the other exhibitors we spoke to.

“There’s a huge amount of work that’s going on at the moment from the reformulation point of view and we’re really passionate to make sure that companies are aware of the help that’s available for them,”​ said Stephen Leishman, lead consultant for ForrestBrown, noting that some reformulators could actually qualify for R&D tax relief.

Concluded Todd, “Today’s event confirms that we have absolutely a wealth of business, acumen, marketing expertise and nutrition science sitting alongside food technology, public health and academic research.

“I urge each of you to take the opportunity to make connections, to forge partnerships and to develop joint ventures so that we can realise that collective ambition for a healthier and wealthier Scotland.”

Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Scotland is a division of the FDF, the voice of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector.

FDF Scotland’s Reformulation for Health programme,​ funded by the Scottish Government, is designed to support SMMEs with expertise and funding to make their products healthier.

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