Scottish scheme helps cut salt, fat and sugar

By Laurence Gibbons

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Scotland, Scottish government

Small food manufacturers in Scotland will benefit from free advice on how to reduce salt, sugar and fats in their products, as part of a £172,000 programme unveiled by the Scottish government.

The reformulation programme will run for two years in partnership with the Scottish Food and Drink Federation (SFDF). It was launched in September 2011 as an action from the Scottish government's Obesity Route Map to help firms that do not have a lot of resource and reformulation experience.

SFDF director Dr Colette Backwell said: "For SMEs​ [small and medium-sized enterprises] the time and cost implications can be a serious barrier to reformulation. The Scottish government and SFDF are keen to support these businesses in their reformulation work.

Changing consumer tastes

"Product reformation enables manufacturers to tweak recipes in line with changing consumer tastes and requirements and the availability of new food preparation techniques and technologies."

Under the programme, SFDF's industry technical manager, Chris Peace, will work with companies to develop tailored, step-by-step reformulation projects for individual products or entire product ranges.

Peace will start by spending one day at a firm discussing the salt and sugar reductions in its recipes.

"Gaining the companies' owners' confidence is paramount,"​ said Peace. "Once that's established, it is quite simple to work on the recipes and then with management to implement the changes."

A number of Scottish food firms have already benefitted from the programme. Maclean's Highland Bakery, oatcake and biscuit manufacturer Tods of Orkney and baker and butcher Stuarts of Buckhaven have all reduced their products' salt and sugar levels.

Reformulation work

Maclean's wanted to instigate reformulation work on a product-by-product basis and, with Peace's help, developed a strategy for most of its product range. The steak pie recipe was the first product to have its salt reduced by 50%.

Tods of Orkney has begun work on seven out of its 11 recipes, with the 'Thick' brand oatcake now containing 20% less salt and 5% less sugar following gradual reductions over the last six weeks.

Stuarts of Buckhaven has targeted 21 bakery products for reformulation, equating to 80% of its total sales. It has already reduced the salt content in its top-selling morning roll products by 14%.

Blackwell said it was too early to predict how the programme might develop, but the short-term aim was to show that reformulation could bring real business benefits without being resource intensive.

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