Has Public Health England hit the sugar reduction sweet spot?
Public Health England published tough new guidelines today, challenging food producers to reduce sugar content by 20% by 2020 and by 5% by the end of 2017.
The quickest and easiest solution for manufacturers will be to simply reduce product size in order to avoid the promised naming and shaming from PHE. However, this doesn’t really solve the problem and could either lead to people just buying double of their favourite chocolate bars or some of our best-loved brands disappearing from the shelf altogether as sales fall beyond recovery.
Reformulation of certain foods is possible – just this week we worked with our client, Honey Monster Puffs, to launch a new-look Honey Monster cereal with 25% less sugar – half the level of the original recipe back when it was known as Sugar Puffs. However, in others it is far more challenging – sugar in cakes determines not only sweetness but texture and shelf-life – and so, as with so many things, the task may not be as simple as it looks.
The pressure to reformulate – where it is possible – could lead to remarkable innovation for the industry as new, healthier products are launched and exciting new ways to replace sugar with natural ingredients are discovered. It’s our job as PR professionals to help clients communicate these changes in the media. However, the question must also be asked; how much of sugar reduction comes down to individual choice? In the case of some categories challenged by PHE such as cake and ice cream, these are treat choices that have never been marketed an every-day purchase but items to be enjoyed on special occasions. Is there an element of trusting us to choose a healthy-balanced diet for ourselves as long as we have the right information in front of us?
When it comes to lowering sugar, transparency and education as to what’s really in our food and making clever choices will surely be the most successful way to help combat obesity and reduce sugar intake for everyone.