How to reformulate ahead of UK HFSS legislation


We know that reformulating well-loved products to meet non-HFSS criteria is a challenge. So how can you keep projects on track and consumers on side?

The anticipated introduction of the new UK HFSS legislation means that certain brands will need to be reformulated to avoid curbs on marketing activity. But with fat, salt and sugar the target of these new restrictions, the move is understandably cause for concern.

Why? Because they each provide important sensory and functional characteristics that consumers have come to expect.


Reducing any or all of these nutritional elements to achieve non-HFSS status will change the eating experience. Get it wrong and you risk losing hard won consumer loyalty - no matter how much promotional activity is put in place to support the revamped product. And there is a lot to address.

Leading roles

Fats are fundamental for product structure. Switching from a hard fat to a liquid alternative may reduce sat fat content in baked goods, for example, but is highly likely to compromise mouthfeel and flavour release. And few of us would be happy to see fat migrating between the layers of a beautifully presented cake.

Salt, on the other hand, fulfils the dual role of preservation and taste. Changing packaging and processing is one way to mitigate against a shorter shelf life. As is the use of other preservative ingredients, although this may come at the cost of a clean label declaration. Similarly, reducing salt content by stealth can re-educate the palate over time but there is always a baseline that can’t be crossed.

And when it comes to sugar, the challenges are particularly complex due to its multifaceted role. Providing sweetness and bulk, sugar also acts as a preservative, stabiliser, thickener and fermentation substrate in a range of different products. And let’s not forget its ability to create the distinctive flavour and colour that’s brought about by caramelisation and the Maillard reaction. 


Value of analytical tools

That’s not to say reformulation can’t be done successfully. Far from it. But what it does mean is that any changes to tried and tested products need to be carefully managed - and this is why our analytical testing service is such a valuable tool.

By making it an integral part of your reformulation process, we can help you understand and evaluate the impact of reformulation changes on key aspects of product performance. We do this by using three main data sources:

  • Sensory assessment: An objective descriptive assessment of the sensorial qualities provided by our panel of trained product evaluators

  • Consumer understanding: The extent to which a group of target consumers like or dislike a controlled sequence of reformulated concepts

  • Physical analysis: Key physical product characteristics, such as creaminess, density and melt rate, measured and mapped through instrumental methods, using the existing product as a benchmark



Armed with this information, you are in a much stronger position to confidently move forward - and ultimately create products consumers will enjoy. 


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