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Food for thought

Why sugar is on everyone's lips

At this time of year, you can’t help but notice the abundance of healthy eating articles, diets, exercise regimes and general Christmas detox messages that we are bombarded with. For us at Arla, health is top of mind all year long, not least reducing sugar in our products - even if it can be as difficult to implement as the average new year diet resolution.

Because let’s be honest. There aren’t many good examples of great tasting products without sugar in them. It’s engrained in our palettes that sweetened food tastes good. So it’s notoriously difficult to take it out of foods without impacting on the taste. It’s a challenge facing the food industry, our customers and consumers alike.

As the debate around sugar shows no sign of slowing, the implications on our health are well publicised. According to an Ipsos survey, eight in ten consumers globally acknowledge that eating right is the most important factor in maintaining good health. Our retail customers are highly aware of the situation and they are constantly seeking new ways to drive sales through healthier products and look to us for innovation and new concepts that will help them achieve this.

As a responsible food producer, we at Arla recognise our role in helping people live a healthier life. Arla Brand yogurts are leading the industry when it comes to sugar reduction. In two years, we have removed 500 tons of added sugar from our Arla Yoggi yogurt range in Denmark and through the launch of our reduced sugar yogurt, Skyr, have the potential to reduce sugar intake by 190 tonnes per year in the UK alone.

Last summer, we went a step further in the war against sugar by launching new innovation, Arla Bio Nur. This is our first ever yogurt with only two ingredients – organic yogurt and fruit. There is absolutely no added sugar.

The journey to bring this product to the market was not an easy one. To remove the sugar, the fruit in the yogurt had to have the right amount of sweetness to make sure consumers still liked the taste. At the beginning of the process, we were actually told it would be impossible to create. But we persevered because we believed in it. We believed in a healthy, natural product with no unnecessary ingredients that gives consumers the option to reduce their sugar intake. Finding the right fruit to bring some sweetness but also the right taste and texture was a difficult balance. Arla’s research and development team tested over 180 different variations of fruit prep to find the right one and spent over 300 hours trialing ways to get the right consistency. Without the addition of thickeners and stabilizers, the consistency can be thin, but with some adjustments to the production, we overcame this.

It’s easy to see why removing sugar presents a challenge for the food industry. Time, resources and cost are all big hurdles to overcome.

But proving that consumers are seeking out healthier, natural products, Arla Bio Nur launched onto the German market with great success. Early signs are showing that sales are continuing to grow and it is due to launch into other European markets later this year. But the key for me in all of this, is if we can reduce the amount of sugar in what we eat, we’ll all become a little more accustomed to living without it.

I really believe that if we, as a collective food industry and as Arla, continue to innovate in product development to give consumers the right products in the right formats to fit in with their lifestyle, then we can inspire good food habits. We have spent the last 15 years working to ensure significant sugar reduction across our Arla branded portfolio.

If you want a clear guide on exactly what is, and isn’t, in our dairy products, go to the Arla Brand Nutrition Criteria on our website. The guidelines are our promise for limiting sugar, salt and fat in Arla branded items.

Health is a subject that should be on our lips all year round, even if we are up against old habits and difficult innovation processes. Arla’s commitment to this is unwavering and we’ll continue to fight on in the war on sugar.

Good luck with your new year resolutions.

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