Seabrook chief executive Jonathan Bye said it was a “massive undertaking” to lose one-fifth of a product’s salt while maintaining flavour and it was high time food firms got adequate recognition from the press and politicians.
“I think there have been some massive strides taken, but I think we get fairly negative press given the changes we’ve made,” he said.
‘Considerable amount of investment’
Former Vimto boss Bye who also undertakes a voluntary role with the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) representing small businesses in negotiations with government over the Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD) said it took six months’ work and a considerable amount of investment to reduce salt levels.
“Now I can say to you we have reduced 20% of the salt without compromising the flavour, but the cost of time and money and investment to get to that stage is very significant. It really isn’t an easy thing to do and, at the same time, everyone wants to buy your crisps as cheaply as possible,” he said.
“It's very easy to say you are going to do it and you can actually take the salt out quite easily, but it’s all about keeping the flavour. We had to work very hard with different flavour houses to arrive at the point we have.”
Despite the challenges, Bye remains confident the firm can further reduce salt levels.
However, he said that would only be worthwhile if there was a level playing field, which led to all firms signing up to the PHRD targets, including the foodservice sector.
“I think some of the targets to come out of the PHRD are extremely aggressive and there are challenges within it when some people are working towards signing up to them while others aren’t, because you need to have the consumer palate educated on a low salt levels for everything.
“Our contention has always been that the out of home sector had to be addressed, and moves are being made in this regard, but this whole approach needs to be looked at across the whole spectrum.”
Bye took over at Seabrook last May after the company posted a £1.8M loss and its promotional strategy was branded “not sustainable” by its directors.
Don't miss The Big Interview feature with Bye, published in the September edition of our sister title Food Manufacture.