Sainsbury close to finishing work on additives

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cakes

Sainsbury is nearing completion of work towards clean labelling for its own-label products, but the process has been tough, according to integrity...

Sainsbury is nearing completion of work towards clean labelling for its own-label products, but the process has been tough, according to integrity manager Sue Henderson.

Speaking at a technical symposium on colours hosted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in London, Henderson said there were now a handful of products still presenting difficulties. The most problematic areas had been canned fruit and vegetables, soft drinks and glacier cherries.

Wider reformulation in the cake category had created several issues, Henderson said: “We took our fondant fancy off sale for six months while we were taking out hydrogenated vegetable oils [HVOs], preservatives and sweeteners. We couldn’t get the right fondant texture without the HVOs.”

Its Battenberg Cake had caused problems because of its distinctive appearance. However, the retailer had taken the level of colour down slightly, said Henderson. It was now working to remove the colour cochineal, because it is derived from insects and so was unsuitable for vegetarians.

Henderson added: “We are now trying to restrict our use of annatto colouring to cheese, but we can’t find a combination that will make it stable.”

She went on: “One of the key things we’re working hard on is [trying to naturally recreate the colour of] glacier cherries. They are the bane of my life. We’ve had to deal with the issue for several cakes, for example, our Taste The Difference Fruit Cake. We’re very close on it.” In some cases, Sainsbury had elected to use the artificially-added colour, so long as it was clearly highlighted on packs.

In confectionery, its black and white Everton Mint, which used carbon black as a colour, had been an obstacle. “In different trials we could not get black. Our supplier spoke to the local Trading Standards officer about changing the colour, but they said if we did that, we could not call it an Everton Mint [the colour was originally associated with the Everton Football Club strip]. So, we changed the colour and are calling it a ‘Stripy Mint’. On packs, we explain carefully what we have done and why.”

Henderson said close consultation with a range of colleagues and a broad customer base had helped guide Sainsbury’s decisions regarding colours. She said: “We even asked colleagues in our clothing department which colours were currently ‘in’.”

The retailer was now training its sales staff to deal with customer queries regarding food ingredients and additives, she said.

Advising suppliers on their approach to reformulation, she warned them not to try “a one-in, one-out approach” to replacing ingredients. “You will end up wasting time. Planning is fundamental. Ask yourself, what else do we want to do at the same time to change a product [and do it in one go].”

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