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Healthier reformulation: the quiet revolution

59% of UK shoppers feel that their diet isn’t as healthy as it could be but it’s healthy enough...can reformulation help?

About this article

What do UK shoppers feel about how healthy their diets are, what are the opportunities that reformulation can present for businesses and how are we pushing the industry to consider healthier products? IGD Nutrition and Scientific Affairs Manager Hannah Pearse investigates.

UK leading the way

As consumers, we never like the taste of our favourite foods to change and yet 70% of us say we are “happy for food companies to change the recipe of products to make them healthier, provided they’re still as tasty.” 1

With skill, this balance can be achieved as many reformulation pioneers have proven. The UK food industry has been a world leader in salt reduction and the latest national diet survey data shows an 11% fall in the population’s salt intake since 2005.2 Trans fats have almost been eliminated from the British diet, other fats, especially saturates, have been substantially cut in many products and now the focus is on reducing sugar content.

Reformulation key to public health

The great public health benefit of reformulation is that people’s diets can improve without any need to change habits and behaviour. This is vital because 59% of UK shoppers feel that “their diet isn’t as healthy as it could be but it’s healthy enough.”3

The influential McKinsey report ‘Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis’ cited reformulation as one of the most impactful intervention in terms of cost effectiveness.4 So although reformulation is just one of the approaches required to reverse obesity, it is probably one of the most important ways for food and drink companies to contribute.

More to be done

Despite a recent stabilising of obesity rates, much more still needs to be done. Worldwide, obesity is a growing concern in almost every country.

Salt consumption needs to fall by a further 25% to hit the recommended average intake of 6g a day. Sugar needs to fall even more dramatically to hit the recently revised target by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN). They recommend that free sugars should account for no more than 5% of your daily dietary energy, requiring us to halve national consumption.5

Moreover, it is not only about reduction. Only 30% of adults currently meet their recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Fibre consumption also needs to increase and some recipes can be revised to help with this too. 

Benefits for companies

Although ethical responsibility is the main driver for reformulation, companies can benefit commercially too. The number of health conscious shoppers is on the increase, aided by websites and apps that are guiding choice and highlighting variations in the nutrition levels of products.

The critical factor is balancing taste with nutrition. Some companies have had very limited access to knowledge and resources and it is these we hope to help and inspire.

IGD’s vision

Our vision is that many more food companies contribute to formulating healthier products resulting in further significant improvements to the national diet…and strong sales for those companies too.

The reformulation pioneers are willing to help. Although we can never expect them to share their recipe secrets, many have volunteered to share general lessons, for instance: the stages in a reformulation project, where to find technical help, how to test with consumers and how to communicate the results.

However, before we rush in with solutions, we want to understand what support food and drink companies would most welcome in this area. That is why we are launching a survey of companies including small businesses and those supplying into foodservice. We are hoping for as many responses as possible to inform and shape the resources we develop.

Take the survey

How you can help

Please complete our survey, wherever you are in the reformulation journey including if you haven’t made a start yet.

If you have examples of healthier reformulation you would be happy to showcase to help others, then please contact

The more companies that contribute, the bigger impact we can make, so do get involved today!


[1] IGD shopper research 2015

[2] National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Assessment of dietary sodium Adults in England, 2014

{3] IGD shopper research 2015


[5] National Diet and Nutrition Survey, rolling programme 2008-2012

This collaborative programme spans the entire food chain and has been co-created by IGD and industry. Working with and through companies, the programme will aim to encourage healthier eating in the UK. The programme will be formed of three parts: nutrition information on pack, healthy eating in the workplace, and reformulation.