“Reformulation is not new for Nestle. We have been on [this journey] even before the implementation of initiatives such as the Healthier Choice Logo and taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages,” a Nestle spokeswoman told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Product reformulation can be challenging and requires committed R&D efforts to ensure nutrient targets are delivered while ensuring consumer acceptance. At Nestlé we are firmly committed to [this].”
New Zealand-based dairy major Fonterra told us that: “Reformulation to produce healthier products have always been one of our key areas of focus and it drives our innovation and renovation approach.”
Stressing the importance of establishing the ‘right ecosystem’, they added that: “[Ensuring] the success of reformulation for healthier products in any country requires a collaborative approach from many different stakeholders including government, industry, consumers, NGOs and research agencies.”
A Coca-Cola spokesman stressed to us that across the border in Singapore, even more reformulation efforts had taken place and were also currently underway.
“We’re taking steps to help people reduce the amount of sugar they consume from our drinks, including launching several new lower- and no-sugar drinks and also rethinking many of our recipes in Singapore to reduce sugar,” he said.
Many examples of this have been implemented since 2018, e.g. the company’s Authentic Tea House RTD teas with lower or no sugar which included brands like green tea Ayataka, oolong tea Da Hong Pao and chrysanthemum tea Jin Ban.
“We also launched the new Sprite, Fanta Orange and Fanta Strawberry in June 2018, which contain more than 40% less sugar,” he added.
“Today, 60% of our portfolio in Singapore fall into the lower or no sugar categories. Going forward, we will continue to rethink many of our recipes around the world [including Malaysia] and in Singapore to reduce sugar.”
The study also revealed that even though 99% of Malaysian consumers are trying to improve their diets, cost is a major challenge in making the switch to healthier options.
“71% of Malaysians agreed that eating healthily is more expensive than eating unhealthily. Just 14% disagreed with this statement,” said the study.
“There are many different ways in which Malaysians seek to improve their diets, including reducing saturated fats and/or cholesterol (30%) and eating more fruits and vegetables (48%).
“This presents a wide range of opportunities for food companies to [reformulate to support these consumer demands].”
That said, taste was identified to still be a predominantly important factor even when it comes to consumers open to reformulation – 76% of consumers said they were ‘happy if product recipes are changed to make them healthier, provided they are still as tasty’.
The study found that only 13% of respondents from brands/manufacturers felt they provided enough healthy choices already, but that only 19% felt technical expertise was what was lacking to work on reformulation - reinforcing the importance of government incentive.
In addition, some 31% of companies said that it was ‘difficult to source healthier ingredients’, and this is likely also related back to cost and incentive issues.