'A good balance for our brands': Danone UK & Ireland’s health pledge uncovered

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Yogurt Dairy Milk sugar reduction Fat reduction Salt reduction reformulation

The food major’s UK and Ireland division has committed that at least 90% of its products will stay below government-mandated limits for fat, sugar and salt content, while vowing to transparently publish nutritional data about its dairy, plant-based and beverage portfolios.

The news comes at a time when Danone is ramping up efforts to improve the nutritional value of its products. In September 2022, the Danone North America announced it was set to re-formulate 70% of its plant-based beverages and kids products. DairyReporter understands that efforts on that front are ‘ongoing’ but the company was unable to provide a more in-depth update at this time.

Meanwhile, Danone UK & Ireland has said it will make sure that at least 90% of its products by sales volume would not be high in sugar, salt or fat (HFSS), as defined by the UK government’s current policy.

This is a minimum threshold, the firm has said, and includes products reformulated within the period of October 2021 and September 2022 inclusive. Consumer brands such as Activia, Actimel, Alpro, Oykos and Light & Free will be held to this new standard, Danone said.

Zoe Ellis, head of consumer nutrition at Danone UK & Ireland, told DairyReporter: “We are continuously reviewing our products to ensure they are tasty and nutritious. For example, in the yogurt and fromage frais category we have reduced our sugar content by 16%, ahead of the 13.5% average sugar reduction achieved across the category. It is work like this that has led us to a dairy, plant-based and beverages portfolio which is now 90% not high in sugar, salt or fat by volume of sales.”

'We have a responsibility'

Danone’s initiative towards producing new and reformulating existing products with lower fat, sugar and salt contents is driven by consumers.

According to Danone UK & Ireland research, 94% of British consumes say they try to eat healthily at least some of the time, while sugar and fat content are the leading factors behind purchasing decisions for almost half of all shoppers.

Asked how the company balances the need for healthier formulations with the expectations for good taste and texture in its dairy products, Ellis said: “We believe we have a responsibility to ensure our products are healthy, nutritious and tasty. Every new product idea that goes through our innovation process will be evaluated to make sure it meets the criteria of our health commitments, and thereby continues to contribute to a healthy diet.

“For yogurts in our dairy portfolio, sugar and fat can be the most challenging HFSS elements to reduce, because they are naturally occurring and help to give it the right taste and texture profile." - Zoe Ellis, Danone UK & Ireland

“Sometimes, when fruit is added to yogurts to give them different flavours, this can also impact the sugar levels even if they are naturally occurring sugars.

“Despite this, through years of innovation and reformulation, we have worked to find a good balance for our brands to ensure we can offer healthy tasty yogurts, the majority of which are non-HFSS.”

 Ellis added that the UK & Ireland division has also managed to reduce sugar content in the yogurt and fromage frais category by 16%, ‘ahead of the 13.5% average sugar reduction achieved across the category'.

Health Star Rating

Danone UK & Ireland also announced that 90% of its portfolio by sales volume will be rated as ‘healthy’, i.e. receiving a score of at least 3.5 out of 5 stars within the Health Star Rating Index. The international index with roots in Australia and New Zealand assesses the overall nutritional profile of packaged food and provides easy-to-understand front-of-pack information. It is voluntary and will form part of Danone UK & Ireland’s commitment to ‘implement clear, consistent front of pack nutritional labelling in line with future UK and Ireland legislation’. The company will also publish nutritional data for its dairy, plant-based and beverage portfolio for the UK and Ireland.

“In order for front of pack labelling to support consumers in making healthier choices, we believe that labelling must be clear and regionally consistent, and that it needs to be in-line with UK and European standards,” Ellis said. “As soon as these standards have been agreed upon, Danone UK & Ireland will respond accordingly. Until then, we will transparently publish nutritional data for our portfolio on our website.”

Ellis added: “For the first time, we are committing to transparently publishing nutritional data about our dairy, plant-based and beverages portfolio as Danone UK & Ireland, to demonstrate compliance with our health commitments. Whilst some companies do also publish nutritional data, this usually tends to be more focused on global product portfolios.”

Danone UK & Ireland will use the Health Star Rating system as well as UK government HFSS guidelines as benchmarks, and confirm ongoing compliance.

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