The maker of Philadelphia is looking to fortify rather than launch new product variants. Rachel Barnes reports

For a company that was founded on the mass production of one of the foods in our diets with the highest fat content, it might seem strange that health has been heralded as one of the most important drivers for growth at food and drink manufacturing giant Kraft.
But health and wellness is now
a focus in both &'breakthrough&'
innovations and line extensions for the company, which started in Chicago in 1903, selling cheese from a horse-drawn wagon.
Kraft&'s US-based vice president of global technology and quality, Jean Spence, says that products such as cholesterol-lowering coffee are not far off. &"There&'s now a real blurring of the line between food and drugs. When it comes to coffee there are few negatives other than perhaps caffeine. So we must look at what positives we can bring instead, whether its prevention and living well or fortifying our products.&"
It is very much fortification that is central to Kraft&'s strategy. As the owner of the cream cheese brands Dairylea and Philadelphia, as well as Toblerone, the Terry&'s chocolate range, Cote d&'Or and Kenco, Kraft has been firmly in the sights of the health lobby, especially when it has come to kids&' food.
&"But Dairylea is one of our big health opportunities,&" argues Ben Clarke, vice president and area director for UK and Ireland. &"There have been some extreme opponents in the media who have not represented a balanced picture. Mums recognise that Dairylea
isn&'t a bad product.&"
Now, Kraft is &"putting more of the good stuff in and taking other stuff out&", adds Spence. It has ­already reduced the salt content of Dairylea by 30% and is planning to fortify it in the UK with calcium and Vitamin D as it has in the US.
The fortification of products is seen within Kraft as an essential way to move brands on, rather than simply adding flavours or variants, which is as costly as creating a new concept, albeit less risky.
Spence also describes how the business plans to develop healthier foods for the future.
&"We&'re conducting external research on ways to fool the tongue that a product is sweeter or saltier than it is.As we learn more about why things taste sweet, salty or bitter, we can identify how to fool our taste buds, so we are only using a tiny amount of sugar but the product still tastes sweet. This could be reality in seven to 10 years.&"
Kraft is also using fermentation to ensure that diet products don&'t lose the original&'s taste appeal. By distilling the flavour of the full-fat food, it is able to remove fat, sugar or salt but put the original flavour back into the product. This has already been done with Philadelphia and Dairylea in the US, says ­Spence, and it plans to roll the process out globally.
Organic and natural foods are another focus for Kraft. It already has the Back to Nature brand in the US, which it plans to launch in other markets, and Clarke believes its chocolate range has huge potential following the success of Cadbury&'s Green & Black&'s.
Kraft is also confident that it can extend its Rainforest Alliance partnership to chocolate.
Last year it launched Kenco Sustainable Development coffee, its first foray into fair trade. Cocoa is already being looked at as its next move, but it plans to explore all existing products to see which could become &"sustainable&".
So could we be eating fair trade, low fat, low sugar, organic chocolate with all the indulgence of the real thing?
The challenge is on, especially when it comes to diet versions, ­according to Clarke. &"Whoever gets there first with chocolate will be very happy.&"