Sugar reduction: work together on less sugar

3 May 2016

As fuel for the body, sugar gives energy, but it does not provide the body with the vitamins, minerals and fibres it needs. Eating too much sugar can lead to overweight. Therefore FrieslandCampina has been working on structural sugar reduction of its products for many years.

‘FrieslandCampina has worked with a programme aimed at reducing the sugar contents since 2009’, Petra Dekker, Corporate Manager Diet & Health at FrieslandCampina, explains. ‘We want to contribute to a healthier society by offering healthier products. During the last few years, we have implemented a continual step-by-step reduction of the contents of added sugar in our products. This is because if we take too large a step at once, the consumer will not like the product any longer and then our efforts will have been in vain.’ The possibilities for sugar reduction have been globally inventoried. ‘These differ per region, as Asian people,for instance, are used to a higher sweetness level – and appreciate this – than Europeans are. When reducing the sugar content, we have to take these regional differences into account’, according to Petra.

Reduction of the sugar contents of products is a complex search for adjusting the recipes in the right way. Yvette van Dijk is R&D Cluster Manager Dairy-based Beverages at FrieslandCampina and with her team she is responsible for the technological research required for adjusting the recipes: ‘Reduction of the sugar content has direct effects on more aspects of the product. It may not only have influence on the sweetness, but on the taste experience, such as fruitiness, texture and the thickness of a product, as well. We carefully look for each product how we must adjust the recipe in order to make sure that despite the reduction of the sugar content maximum quality of the product and the experience of the consumer is maintained.’ The Product Development department has made a toolbox for this. Points of departure such as sweetness level, taste and costs also determine the selection of the tools to be used. Yvette: ‘We globally share these experiences with a team of 20 product developers, making sure that we make optimum use of each other’s knowledge.’

Good results

The results are impressive: for instance, the sugar content in Fristi has been almost halved since 2009 and that of DubbelFrisss has been reduced by one third. ‘With respect to DubbelFrisss we step-by-step developed new tastes with recipes containing less sugar and when these turned out to be successful, we adjusted the existing tastes accordingly’, Petra Dekker sets out. Large steps have been taken in the past six years, especially for a number of products aimed at children in Europe as well as in Asia. ‘We did this on purpose, because overweight also affects young people. What’s learnt in the cradle lasts till the tomb, so this was our first priority.’

Further sugar reduction

Based on its own health philosophy, FrieslandCampina joined the Akkoord Verbetering Productsamenstelling [Product Composition Improvement Agreement], which was concluded between the Dutch government and trade and industry. ‘Through the agreement we commit ourselves to a structural reduction of (among other things) sugar’, Petra Dekker tells us. ‘However, we have also drawn up one global consistent scheme with criteria for energy, fat, sugar and salt that all recipes of our products must comply with. This was based on the criteria of the Choices International Foundation. These have been recognised by the World Health Organisation and were drawn up by independent scientists from all over the world.’ The next step will be to determine with the help of this uniform measuring rule what adjustments are required for what recipes and to make a plan that must have been implemented in 2020. ‘Our experience in adjusting the recipes of products the sugar contents of which we have already substantially reduced are of great value here’, Yvette van Dijk tells us. ‘This enables us to implement adjustments much faster.