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How ingredients companies are helping tackle obesity

By Kirsty Yull

The science festival, New Scientist Live, returned to London last month, and there was certainly a lot to discover. With over 140 speakers and 100 exhibitors, interactive experiences, workshops and ground-breaking discoveries, the atmosphere was electric.

Being from a nutrition background, I naturally gravitated towards the Human Stage, which hosted a range of discussions about what makes us who we are. I attended an engaging talk by Eric Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Psychological Sciences at Liverpool University, who addressed the question: “Obesity: Who is to blame?”

It was refreshing that his argument wasn’t for the usual focus on increasing physical activity or better nutrition education. He argued that, contrary to popular belief, we as individuals should no longer be held responsible for being overweight or obese; instead, our food environment is to blame.

We’ve seen the focus on obesity really ramped up recently – with the UK sugar tax being introduced in April 2014, and numerous other (and sometimes controversial) initiatives, such as the NHS One You campaign and European Obesity Day. Looking ahead, the UK is planning on banning energy drink sales to children in light of health concerns.

Food and drink companies influence our food environment massively, and many people are saying they are partly to blame. With ingredients companies working closely with these businesses, do they also have a role to play? We think so, and there are signs that, in fact, they are leading the way.

They can certainly help by suppling ingredients that are lower in sugar, salt and/or fat, or make it possible to reduce levels of these components in products. One example we really like is Lycored’s tomato-based taste enhancer, SANTE, which can help reduce sodium, sugar and fat content in recipes. It has naturally high levels of glutamate, which allows it to deliver umami and kokumi without the help of MSG.

Another great example is JusFruit™ pieces from Taura Natural Ingredients. They’re made using a unique Ultra-Rapid Concentration technique which retains the natural sweetness of the fruit. They can be used to develop recipes, such as cookies, that offer lower free sugar intake without compromising on taste.

Manufacturers are now focusing more on the ingredients that go into the food and drink in the first place. In light of this, ingredient companies will benefit from focusing on innovation and formulating products that are naturally lower in calories, sugar, salt and fat.

However, when manufacturing ‘healthier’ alternatives, flavour can often be compromised. With taste remaining as a top driver for consumer purchases, this is not an option.

More and more ingredient companies are setting the agenda by researching, formulating and testing healthier, but also tasty, products in order to get this balance right. In doing so, they are providing solutions to manufacturers who are likely to come under even greater pressure from the public, government and regulators to provide healthier options.

If you’re an ingredient company offering great solutions to make healthier delicious food and beverage products, contact us today to find out how Ingredient Communications could help you tell your story.