How are companies making their products healthier?

A new report from the Food and Drink Federation highlights how new ingredients, reformulations and science are giving consumers products with less salt, sugar and calories.

15 May 2018

Healthy eating is on everyone’s minds, from consumers to manufacturers through to food companies and governments.

As a result, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has produced Feeding Change, a new report showcasing the progress its members have made in supporting people to make healthier choices.

Over the past five years, FDF members have reduced energy (calories) in the average shopping basket by 5.5% and sugars by 12%. 

During the lifetime of the latest salt targets from 2012 to 2017, FDF’s members have also reduced salt content by over 11%.

But healthy options are not just something being driven by the UK government.

The report highlighted recent Leatherhead research that revealed that 44% of UK consumers are trying to eat less sugar, 8% are trying to eat more protein, 5% are trying to exclude gluten and 6% are trying to cut dairy from their diet.

The research also found that 39% of UK consumers are looking for healthy products that make them feel full for longer, 19% are looking for products containing key vitamins and minerals and 17% want products to match their personal dietary and nutritional needs.

So how is industry responding to the hype for healthy eating? From reformulating products to reduce salt, fat and sugar, to limiting portion sizes and innovating to bring new, healthier options to the market.

Here are some of the highlights of case studies within the FDF report.

Alternative ingredients


Macphie has produced a range of cake mixes and frostings that have been reduced in sugar by 30%.

The reduced sugar range replaces sugar with inulin, a vegetable fibre made from chicory root that is 100% natural.

Macphie is now looking to expand the healthier alternative range across more of its existing products, including its biscuit and flapjack products.

Breyers Delights

Launched in January, Breyers Delights is churning up the ice cream aisle with its four flavours.

With a third fewer calories than traditional ice creams, it’s lower in sugar and high in protein

Tapping into the wellness trend, the range contains between 290kcal and 350kcal and up to 20g of protein per tub. It’s made with a purified extract of the stevia rebaudiana leaf.

The Jordans & Ryvita Company

The current focus for the company is using less added sugar, which plays an important role in the texture and structure of ‘cluster’ based baked cereals in particular.

Over the past 12 months, the business has launched a range of low-sugar granola products made using chicory root fibre as a replacement for added sugar.

They are also currently working as part of a project co-funded by Innovate UK, working with the University of Nottingham and other specialist partners to explore how to reduce the amount of added sugar within its cereal bar recipes.

Calorie caps


As part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, the company introduced ‘calorie caps’ in the UK for all of its hand-held ice creams.

For children, this means that as part of their ‘Responsibly made for kids’ promise, all Wall’s kids ice creams with this logo have been formulated according to a set nutritional criteria and have up to 110kcal per serving.

For adults, the calorie content of individual serve ice cream, including Magnum, has been capped at 250kcal per serving.

The Healthy Food Development

The company has launched two new products called LowGicFood Cakes with the flavours Lemon Almond and Cherry Bakewell.

The two products have seven benefits in every slice: no added sugar, under 200kcal per 85g slice, high in protein, high in fibre, low in carbohydrates, low GI and reduced fat.

Sugar savings

Weetabix Food Company

With sugar levels already 30% lower than the category average and below Public Health England’s 2020 guidelines, Weetabix Food Company has successfully decreased its levels of sugar further.

Weetabix Original, already one of the lowest sugar cereals available, has reduced sugar by 5% to just 4.2%. This is now less than half a teaspoon of sugar per two biscuit serving – and a quarter of this total is due to naturally occurring sugars in the British-grown wheat.


The cookie company recently launched a range of sugar-reduced go ahead! biscuit products as part of its health and wellbeing programme.

The recipe changes will remove 347 tonnes of sugar each year, with reductions of 10% in Crispy Fruit Slices and Yogurt Breaks, and between 22-40% in Fruit Bakes.

The revised recipes contain fewer calories, and Fruit Bakes have been renamed Fruit and Oat Bakes because of the addition of more oats to the snacks. The changes have been extended across the go ahead! portfolio, with the launch of a range of no-added-sugar Goodness bars.


It bought a new product, Fruitilicious, to market this year that is 30% lower in sugar than the category average.

With 33g of sugar per 100g, the sweets have entered the UK market with the lowest sugar content per 100g (compared with other similar products in the category).


Napolina, the UK’s number-one Italian cooking brand, is launching two first to market ‘no added sugar’ pasta sauce ranges.

A 500g range aimed at families features flavours like Tomato & Hidden Veg, Bolognese and Sauce for Meatballs, while smaller households are catered for in a 350g jar, which comes in Tomato & Basil and Tomato & Chilli.

General Mills

General Mills has reduced sugar by 17% in Petits Filous, in a significant recipe reformulation that has also seen vitamin D fortification increased to 50% of the daily-recommended amount per portion.

Secret science


As reported by Food Spark earlier this year, Nestlé researchers made a scientific breakthrough a few months ago, transforming the structure of sugar through a new process using only natural ingredients. This allows someone to perceive the same level of sweetness while consuming less sugar.

This has led to the new Milkybar Wowsomes bar, which has 30% less sugar than similar chocolate products and contains no artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colours or flavourings.


It developed DairySource to replace or reduce fresh cream.

A creamy indulgent taste is experienced while the product contains less fat content (up to 40%) and fewer calories (20%).

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