This is a challenging yet exciting time to be in the food business.

Regulations around health are increasing, as are the regulations surrounding how brands can link health and their products together.

Despite this, the market is burgeoning with products and concepts that are there to help consumers try and make healthier food choices and engage in healthier behaviours. This is encouraging, but health must also be kept in perspective, with the ‘balanced diet’ concept never far from our minds.

Marks & Spencer made to undergo a rebrand of its ‘Fuller Longer’ range

In 2010, Marks & Spencer launched their ‘Fuller Longer’ range of products, where each dish is designed to contain the right balance of proteins and carbohydrates to increase satiety and therefore reduce the desire to snack in-between meals. Consumers certainly bought into the concept, with it being a big seller for Marks & Spencer.

However, it has now emerged that Marks & Spencer have been asked to change the title of their range, in light of Trading Standards discovering that they are in breach of EU law on health claims.

Health and nutrition claims are perhaps a point of confusion for many brand marketers. They know that health statements sell products but they are perhaps unaware of the legal red tape that surrounds their use. Under EU law, a health claim must be authorised by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and included in the list of authorised health claims in the EU Register before they can be used. Nutrition claims on the other hand, can only be used if they are listed in the Annex of the EU Regulation and meet the specific conditions stipulated.

Importantly for brands who use wording similar to Marks & Spencer, statements referring to the general, non-specific benefits of the product or nutrient in relation to health, such as “good for you”, “healthy” or “superfood” do not need to be EU Registered but must be accompanied by an authorised health or nutrition claim if used.

For example, the term “superfood” is a general reference to health, and its use must be accompanied by an authorised nutrition and/or health claim, explaining to consumers why the product is beneficial to health.

In the case of Marks & Spencer, “Fuller Longer” implies specific benefits to health but the statement never had an authorised health or nutrition claim to back that assumption up.

The consequence of this is that Marks & Spencer have had to re-brand their whole ‘Fuller Longer’ range to ‘Balanced for You’, with the new packaging set to hit stores next month.

As health moves higher up both the public and governmental agenda, the desire for brands to highlight their products’ health credentials will be strong. However, it is imperative that brands are aware of the red tape that surrounds this area, so that they can stay the right side of the law and most importantly keep their customers trust.


Starbucks commit to the calorie reduction pledge

The government’s Responsibility Deal has been in motion since 2011 and in this time has developed and launched numerous voluntary pledges for food businesses to sign up to, as a means of helping consumers make healthier food choices, both consciously and unconsciously.

Due to the very nature of what they sell, it is encouraging that global coffee shops such as Pret and Starbucks, are advocates of the Deal. However, not one of these ‘big name’ coffee shops had signed up to the Calorie Reduction pledge – an important one considering that reports suggest that if any improvement in obesity levels is to be seen, one part of the puzzle would be for the nation to reduce their calorie consumption by around 5 billion calories per day. Increased physical activity and improved education are also important parts of the puzzle.

However, Starbucks have now become the first coffee chain to sign up the Calorie Reduction pledge, which is encouraging news considering that an adult can consume around 25% of their Reference Intake for energy, from one of their drinks alone.

It will be interesting to see where they decide the take the calories from and of course whether other coffee shops will start to follow suit.


The rise of the ‘single-serve’ biscuit

Can biscuits and calorie control really be discussed in the same sentence? Stuart Wilson, Chief Commercial Officer at Burton Biscuits certainly thinks so. Burton Biscuits have recently brought onto the market single-serve portions for some of their most famous variants and he has put this development down to consumers wanting snacking products that are indulgent but also offer portion and therefore calorie control.

Indeed, insight tells us that consumers are increasingly ‘time-poor’ and are spending more time ‘spontaneously snacking’. They are also, however, more aware than ever about public health policies and how their food choices do or do not fall in line with them.

Satisfying consumers’ combined wants is where, Wilson argues, single-serve biscuits come into their own. It is perhaps not surprising that as biscuits are the number one snacking choice, the potential value of this indulgent yet controlled biscuit market is £240million.  If companies are clever they can not only tap into consumers’ wants but they can also satisfy, if applicable, their obligations under the Department of Health’s Responsibility Deal. For example, reducing portion size helps towards fulfilling the Calorie Reduction pledge.

Ideally, when the urge to nibble takes over, consumers should be snacking on healthy options such as crudités, oat cakes and hummus. However, in reality these will not always be the default option and it is therefore important that if unhealthier options are chosen that they at least help the consumer stay vaguely on track. It is well known that individuals will eat more if they are given ‘supersize’ packs of foods, such as biscuits, crisps and popcorn. Limiting the amount that can be eaten at one sitting, should therefore be seen as a positive development within the biscuit market.


Sugar Puffs cuts sugar from their product as well as their name

The media frenzy around sugar over the last year and the influential SACN report on Carbohydrates on Health that came out this year, have left the public confused and food businesses on edge.

Looking back at the SACN report, the recommendations were that energy intake from ‘free sugars’ should be reduced to less than 5% of our total energy intake. For women, this means that only around 100kcal per day should come from ‘free sugars’. As there are 4kcal in 1g of sugar, the report means that ‘free sugar’ intake should not exceed around 25g per day. The term ‘free sugars’ refers to all sugars added to food and drink as well as those present in fruit juice and honey. It excludes sugar found naturally within foods such as fruit and vegetables, for example.

A combination of a public aversion to sugar and declining sales led to the decision by Halo Foods to: 1. Reduce the sugar content of their cereal and increase the honey content by 20%; 2. Introduce front of pack traffic light labelling and 3. Change the name of the product to ‘Honey Monster Puffs’.

The re-named and re-formulated product does indeed contain less sugar with a 30g serving containing 0.7g less sugar than it did previously and the overall sugar content of the cereal has reduced by 40% in the past decade. However, whilst this is an encouraging step in the right direction, the product is still classified as a ‘high sugar’ product, as a 100g serving contains more than 22.5g sugar.


Perfect World launches UK’s first no-added sugar, non-dairy ice-cream

In a market where health is firmly in the driving seat, it is an interesting time to be a passenger and see where brands will go next.

Perfect World Ice Cream Company, have formulated a new product, incorporating nearly every health trend that has been making waves over the past few years.

‘Perfect World’ is the UK’s very first non-dairy and no added sugar ice-cream alternative. Latching on to the rise in dairy free alternatives such as almond milk, the ‘ice-cream’ is made from a blend of nuts, designed to provide all the creaminess of ice-cream with the added benefit that it contains primarily unsaturated rather than saturated fats.

The company have also used an increase in the popularity of natural sweeteners to their advantage, by using a blend of sweeteners from ‘natural origins’, including Stevia, which negates the need for added sugar.

Perfect World Ice Cream director, Chris Conklin and Keith Davidson, spent five years developing the product, with the kids’ market in mind, saying that, “Kids always want something sweet after dinner so we wanted to come up with a product that would satisfy their sweet tooth but provide actual health benefits at the same time. We carry a significant number of EU health claims on pack to demonstrate how good our product is for you.”