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Sugar replacers healthier and cheaper, says nutritionist

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Sugar replacers healthier and cheaper, says nutritionist

June 30
11:14 2013

Food and drink processors should pursue sugar replacers not only because they are healthier, but because they can be proved to be cheaper, leading nutritionist Jack Winkler has claimed.

For years Winkler, a director of nutrition consultancy Food & Health Research and former Professor of nutrition policy at London Metropolitan University, has pressed firms to cut fat, salt and sugar from products. Now he is launching a manifesto that argues manufacturers could be persuaded to make low sugar products on the basis that it would save them money.

He told FoodManufacture.co.uk that there were three classes of products. “Those where nutritional reformulation actually costs more than the standard version …”

He used the example of Heinz tomato ketchup, which was reformulated to contain more tomatoes. More raw material had been used, so the product cost more, he said.

“Then there are the products where cost differences are not very much either way.” Those reformulated to contain less salt were an example of this, because salt did not cost much, said Winkler.

‘Nutritionally improved version’

“Then there are other products where you can produce a nutritionally improved version for less.”

Winkler claimed to have secured data conclusively showing standard sweeteners used for some products were cheaper than sugar.

“There’s an opportunity for some manufacturers to not only offer a price incentive for consumers, but make more money. It’s an opportunity for private profitability and public health to go together.”

He said processors had done a lot to replace sugar with low calorie sweeteners in cold products, but not in other areas.

“One of my personal disappointments in the food industry is that you have several sweeteners that are heat treatable. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more engagement in cooked products.”

Disheartening

That was all the more disheartening because the industry was making progress with salt reduction, said Winkler.

Salt reduction was in most cases not flagged up on packs, because consumers’ avoided low salt products as they perceived them to be less tasty, he said.

“97% of products in the government’s salt reduction programme make no claims whatsoever … they recognise that putting ‘low salt’ on products kills sales.”

Instead manufacturers were incrementally cutting salt content so shoppers would not notice, he said.

There were fewer excuses for lack of progress with sugar reduction, Winkler said. “With salt you have no acceptable substitute that has become acceptable in the UK, but with sugar you do: you have sweeteners.”

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