NOF’s Tam Fry’s comments came in response to confectionery giant Mondelēz’s plan to reduce the calories in its Fudge, Curly Wurly and Chomp chocolate bars in a bid to help tackle childhood obesity.
The move will see all three products reduced to be below 100 calories – down from 114 calories in a Fudge, 118 in a Curly Wurly and 110 in a Chomp – in line with its other Cadbury products popular with children, including Cadbury Mini Fingers and Cadbury Animals.
Commenting on the reduction of calories in the chocolate bars, Fry said: “Making bars smaller does indeed achieve calorie reduction but reformulation is preferable.”
He warned that should the Government swing to implementing so-called ‘sin taxes’ for products high in sugar in the vein of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, manufacturers could be made to follow Cadbury’s lead.
The industry following suit
“Cadbury should be congratulated on its reduction, but the whole chocolate bar industry should be tempted to follow suit before [Prime Minister Boris] Johnson’s axe falls,” said Fry.
While reformulation might be the method to reduce calories and other unwanted ingredients – such as unsaturated fats and sugar – in confectionery, there can be unintended consequences for the final product.
As Alex White, nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, told Food Manufacture: “Reformulation is challenging for this category as saturated fat and sugar impact taste, mouthfeel, structure and shelf-life.
“It can be difficult to make healthier products that still appeal to consumers, which is why offering smaller portions is so important. Having access to options that provide 100 kcals or less can support parents in offering healthier snacks to children.”
White also pointed to other methods that manufacturers could use to inform their consumers of the health benefits of their products, such as traffic light labels.
Mondelēz UK managing director Louise Stigant said the move was the right approach to help parents control calories when treating their children.
“We feel strongly about playing our part in tackling childhood obesity and are focusing on the areas where we can make the greatest impact,” she told The Grocer.
It is understood that 11 brands will comply with the 100-calorie cap by the end of this year, including Freddo, Buttons and Mini Fingers, with each sporting a new pack design reflecting the reduction.
Meanwhile, the link between COVID-19 and obesity has reignited calls for stricter regulations on the production and sale of foods high in fat, salt and sugar.