Reading a nutrition label

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The FDF said the figures revealed the need to focus support on small companies

Smaller companies are being left behind in the race for HFSS reformulation, with their products becoming increasingly unhealthy in comparison to those of larger businesses.

New figures compiled by Kantar for the FDF shows an increasing gulf between the UK’s food giants and those that make up the long tail of UK companies.

The figures show FDF members contribute 13% fewer calories, 15% fewer sugars and 24% less salt to the average shopping basket than they did eight years ago.

However, there is a stark contrast between the performance of companies such as Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s and Unilever and the thousands of SMEs who have been failing to keep up.

The average score on the government’s nutrient profiling model (NPM) for large companies was found to be 3.7[out of 10], classed as not high in fat, salt or sugar, representing an 11% reduction since 2018.

The FDF would not divulge figures for sales volumes or individual companies, but said the progress was four times that of the reduction achieved by its wider membership, with 97% of food and drink companies made up of SMEs.

The latest figures put the spotlight again on the failure of the government’s obesity strategy, with a report on sugar reduction showing in December that far from achieving the 20% reduction planned, the amount of sugar sold by retailers and food manufacturers had increased by more than 50,000 tonnes since the voluntary programme was announced.

Mandatory targets

Meanwhile, government action on calorie reduction and salt has also floundered, with campaign groups stepping up their calls for the introduction of mandatory targets.

However, the FDF said the Kantar figures revealed the need for a targeted approach to focus support on small companies.

It wants the UK government to introduce incentives similar to Scotland’s Reformulation for Health programme, a government funding scheme set up in 2019 to provide companies with financial and technical help for reformulation, which claims to have slashed calories by 42 million a year. More than 30 companies have already been awarded financial support, with many more in the pipeline.

“This data demonstrates that more support is needed to help smaller businesses match the innovation and output of the larger companies,” said FDF chief scientific officer Kate Halliwell. “With 97% of the food and drink industry made up by small to medium sized companies, these can play an important role in providing healthier options, but many do not have the resources or technical expertise to reformulate their products.

“The industry stands ready to work with government to drive further innovation within our sector, and to work in partnership to power the health of our workforce and communities across the UK.”

Meanwhile a new report by Action on Sugar and Feedback today criticised supermarkets for their lack of action on reformulation.

It claimed out of the major supermarkets only Morrisons had a target to reduce sugar.