‘Silent’ food reformulation could help cut calories

Posted by Andrea Hogan on 23rd August 2017

Danish researchers have suggested ‘silent’ reformulation of foods may help consumers eat less calories without even knowing it.

Published in Volume 14, Issue 104 of the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, researchers described a study in which they oversaw the reformulation of eight private label foods sold in Denmark. Calories were cut and nutrition panels updated accordingly, but the changes were not promoted to customers.

The researchers found that for six products, calorie sales in the overall product category – for example ‘buns’ or ‘yoghurts’ – dropped between 0 and 7 per cent after the changes had been made.

Some costumers swapped reformulated rye bread and chocolate cereal for higher-calorie alternatives, which was deemed to have undermined the calorie-reducing effect of the reformulation for the product categories ‘chocolate muesli’ and ‘bread’. However, for the majority of products, these indirect substitution effects were concluded to have outweighed by the positive effect of the reformulation.

Low cost to pay for health say researchers

Lead researcher, Professor Jørgen Dejgaard Jensen, said silent reformulation may only help improve diets a little, but can still be considered a small price to pay for better health.

“Silent product reformulation may not achieve dramatic reductions in the population’s calorie intake, but there seems to be little doubt that it can reduce calorie intake, and that it can do so at a relatively low cost,” Professor Dejgaard Jensen said.

The study took into account the impact on sales to the producer of the foods and said they were “very small”.

Food product reformulation is considered one among several measures to help fight obesity.

“Food manufacturers are continuously developing and marketing new ‘low-calorie’, ‘low-fat’ or ‘low-sugar’ varieties of processed food products,” Professor Dejgaard Jensen said.

“However, the health promotion potential of more ‘silent’ product reformulation has been largely ignored in research. Our findings suggest that silent reformulation of own-brand products can be effective in reducing calorie consumption by consumers.”


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