Scotland has an obesity crisis - 67% of Scots are overweight; 30% are deemed obese; and 4% classed as morbidly obese, according to the Scottish Health Study - which requires changes across multiple levels, including changing the food environment to help consumers make healthier choices.
Reformulation is unique to each business, ranging from the reduction of fat, salt and sugar and reducing portion size and calorie to replacing ingredients with healthier alternatives and enriching with added fibre, fruit and vegetables. It could even be simply providing clearer consumer health information.
But reformulation comes with costs, which in the current economy, could be just a step too far for many producers, so this Healthier Bakery Fund (HBF) - open to bakers, butchers and foot-to-go makers - is a real lifeline.
The HBF aims to support and assist bakery businesses across Scotland - including manufacturers, retail, foodservice and ingredient manufacturers - to improve the quality and quantity of healthier products to meet the growing consumer demand. It will provide between £1,000 to £5,000 towards expenses, but applicants must provide at least 50% of the total project costs.
With the deadline looming, Bakery&Snacks caught up with Laura Wilson, head of Public Health Nutrition, FSS, Joanne Burns, Reformulation for Health Manager, FDF Scotland, to find out more.
Bakery: top 10 most frequently purchased OOH products
We asked Wilson about recently published research on the energy content of sweet bakery products in the out of home sector in Scotland.
“The research looked at in the calorie information that was available - either instore or online from 18 different businesses - for products like cakes, sweet pastries, muffins and doughnuts,” she said.
“These are one of the top 10 most frequently purchased products when out of home … and we were keen to find out a bit more about the calorie content of those products. What we do know is that most of the foods that are purchased out of home tend to have a higher calorie content and a higher portion size than those that we take home to eat.”
Hence the need for a change, but what exactly is reformulation?
“Reformulation is about changing the product, not the person,” said Burns.
“It’s very hard to totally change a consumer’s view, but through reformulation, we’re changing the product and making it healthier by increasing the content of things like fibre, fruit and veg and reducing salt, fat, sugar.
Scotland's stance on HFSS
The HFSS regulations in England do not apply in Scotland, however, the Scottish Government is currently in the throes of thrashing out its own proposals for restricting the promotions of foods that are high fat, sugar and salt.
“It was announced by the Scottish Government last month that they remain fully committed to legislating to restrict promotions of HFSS foods here and that there is now a more direct route to legislation that doesn't require a bill and this will speed up the process,” said Wilson.
She added that stakeholders will have an opportunity in the autumn to submit their views on the finer details of the proposal.
“It’s also important to be aware that healthy formulation can also be as simple as looking at reducing portion size. It can be as simple as looking at reducing the component parts of a product. So, for example, in bakery, it may be changing the filling or topping.
“I'm amazed at the different reasons that people choose to reformulate. It could be to meet the salt reduction targets. It might be a consumer request. They might want to change some of their front of pack labels from red to green. Every business is unique and we offer bespoke guidance to all of them to deliver their health reformulation projects.”
Added Wilson, “I think one of the key messages I'd like to get across is the power of reformulation. If we target everyday products … improving the nutritional composition of products without the need for people to make a conscious choice … that will make the biggest difference across the population.”
According to Burns, bakery is one of the categories that has huge scope to make the most impact.
The Reformulation for Health programme has already collaborated on a number of successful products, such as Tower Bakery’s push to increase the fibre content of their bread rolls and other morning goods.
“That actually was a great driver for them to grow their business, because it meant their products then met the schools criteria for Scotland,” said Burns.
Another successful project was undertaken by Bells - Scotland’s third most chosen food brand - in reformulating pie shells with 50% less salt.
“It shows there is already an appetite out there in the bakery industry to reformulate. But with all the challenges that industries facing at the moment, they sometimes need that additional financial support with the associated costs of reformulation - such as nutritional testing, shelf life, testing - that will motivate them to start a project.
“So this Healthier Bakery Fund will really help start some of some amazing projects with SME bakers across Scotland.”
Driving consumer awareness
Scottish Bakers president in McGee said the success of the Fund also lies in consumer education and awareness, so I was keen to learn what the steps FSS and FDF Scotland have taken.
“One of our core roles at Food Standards Scotland is to provide evidence-based dietary advice to consumers,” said Wilson.
“We take that really seriously and we’ve got a number of resources that provide support for consumers to understand their diet and to make healthier choices … [such as] a dedicated resource called Eat Well, Your Way, which provides tailored advice on shopping, in the kitchen and eating out.
“But we know that simply providing information isn't enough to help people change their diet, and that changing the food environment - one that puts food centre stage - has much more impactful. So, we also have a series of sector-specific healthier catering guides on our website - children’s menus [for example] - available in four languages.”
Added Burns, “I do agree that successful reformulation has to take a holistic approach across the whole food system. It's not just consumers, but also the food industry that needs to play their part as well from an industry perspective.
“It’s why we’ve developed our reformulate partnerships, which look to connect people from across the whole food system in Scotland to be committed to supporting healthier reformulation. The onus can't simply be put on the shoulders of the manufacturer. We need academics. We need procurement teams. We need ingredient manufacturers and funding organisations to all play their part to drive successful reformulation.”
Helping to make a healthier Scotland
“I think it’s really important to acknowledge that there is [an obesity] problem in Scotland - indeed, across most of the Western world - and that there’s no single solution to improving or diet and health; it requires change across multiple levels,” said Wilson.
“To help people do that, we need to change the food environment to help consumers make the healthy choice. Everyone has a part to play in this, including making changes to the products that will benefit health. Small changes add up to really big changes at population level.”
Added Burns, “Reformulation doesn't need to be difficult. As we’ve mentioned, businesses can simply reduce portion size or the size of a component part. Alterations are needed, but one of the simplest ways to make a recipe healthier is to speak to your ingredient suppliers. Many of them will already stock healthier alternatives.
“And think of a common ingredient that goes across several product ranges rather than just focusing on one specific recipe. Look at one simple change that will impact many products.
She concluded, “if you‘re eligible and interested, don't miss out on this opportunity to apply before the 30 June. Jump onto our website (www.fdfscotland.org.uk) or look at any of the FDF Scotland social media channels for details on how to apply.”
Applicants will be notified if they have been successful within 14 days of the fund closing.