Speaking at the annual conference of the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Group (part of the Food and Drink Federation) in Oxford, Karen Tonks said: “To meet targets for bacon, for example, we may have to reduce shelf-life. Our suppliers may have to adopt a range of strategies to suit customers' needs.”
Work still to be done
Tonks said Tesco has taken 2,000t of salt out of its products since 2005, and the products it had worked on now contained an average of 10% less salt than the FSA’s 2012 target.
“We have reached 2012 targets for 70% of products,” she said. “We are continuing to work on a further 25%, but for 5% of products we think there is significant work to be done and we don’t really know what to do on these products.
“We don’t want to go too fast and we don’t want to create any food waste.”
Saturated fats removed
Tonks said Tesco had taken 2,500t of saturated fats out of products since 2005, although in some cases this had involved substantial efforts.
For instance, in the case of a certain variety of Tesco own-label fairy cake, the fat blend was changed, which “took a lot of work in our development kitchens”.
The situation was further complicated when scientists discovered that the product reacted differently in different environments.
“We started trials in winter, then found it reacted differently in summer.” The project took months and cost £60,000.
Best approach is collaborative
Tonks believes that, in many cases, the best approach on salt, saturated fat and sugar reduction was a collaborative one.
“There are a lot of products where many in the industry will be in the same boat, and it’s about who has got the solutions.”
She said Tesco had approached bodies such as the Institute of Food Science & Technology with a view to spearheading an industry working group to tackle difficult issues.
“I believe it’s the only way we’re going to achieve the targets,” Tonks said.
Tesco has also met with representatives from the FDF and British Retail Consortium (BRC) to discuss forming such a group.
Since government reforms last year, previously set FSA targets on saturated fat, salt and sugar reduction have been kept, but are now being driven by the Department of Health's Dr Claire Baynton, deputy director, nutrition science and delivery health and wellbeing.