However, there are a few notable exemptions. Despite arguably being positioned as a ready meal, pot noodles are exempt, according to guidance from the BRC. Canned pasta, baked beans and cooking sauces are also outside the scope of the restrictions.
Such omissions have raised eyebrows. One challenger brand argues the rules haven’t gone far enough in ambient. Gilmar Uyema, commercial director at stir-fry brand Fused, says there’s a lot of hidden sugar here.
Sugary lines can be found throughout ambient sauces, for one. “Our internal research found that consuming one packet of chow mein stir-fry sauce a week can amount to 1kg of white refined sugar a year,” Uyema says.
Looking at baked beans, the average 400g-420g tin contains 16g-20g of sugar. By comparison, the sugar content of a 250ml bottle or can of Coca-Cola is 27g.
Putting more canned & ambient goods in the scope of the HFSS rules “would be the first step to pushing brands and retailers to improve their products”, Uyema argues. He also wants to see stricter rules on artificial sweeteners.
Still, many sauce brands have taken steps to reduce their sugar content, regardless of whether they fall under HFSS restrictions.
Heinz launched a range of no added sugar pasta sauces in February 2022. A few months later in May, pot noodle brand Kabuto reformulated to make its range non-HFSS.
Previous years have seen similar efforts. In July 2021, two lasagne sauces with no added sugar were launched under Premier Foods’ Loyd Grossman brand. And back in 2020 the company launched a reduced-sugar stir-fry range for its Sharwood’s brand.
With sugar content for the chow mein line at 9.2g per 100g, it’s actually less sugary than Fused’s own chow mein, which contains 14.8g of sugar per 100ml. Uyema says his brand’s use of honey has benefits over white sugar.
“It also contains vitamins and minerals like potassium, calcium, zinc, vitamin C and antioxidants,” he adds.
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