peter hall quote web

Obesity is clearly the nation’s number one long-term health issue. And more recently sugar has overtaken salt as the number one ingredient of concern. Are we as an industry taking this seriously?

The Nielsen State of the Nation survey tells us that consumers are increasingly checking sugar levels on pack (44%) and that 53% say limiting sugar is one of their greatest health concerns.

There are many examples of positive action, such as capping single-serve chocolate and ice cream to 250 calories, reducing the average calories per litre of carbonated soft drinks and increasing marketing on no calorie and no/low sugar options. Progress is being made, but there is still much more to do.

While here at Kraft Heinz our categories don’t feature among the main contributors to sugar intakes, we have been reducing sugar, and salt, for 30 years.

Compared with the Heinz Beanz you and I grew up on, today they contain about a third less sugar and half the salt. It’s the same for our tomato soup. And we’ve cut the sugar and salt in our standard ketchup too, alongside recipe changes to many other much-loved varieties.

Our experience has shown that little by little, and silently, you can achieve big changes in product recipes over time, with far less risk than a big bang change that will likely generate rejection from loyal buyers.

And while ‘doing good by stealth’ is central to our strategy, we also believe we have a responsibility to offer consumers a choice. Reduced sugar varieties, while still delivering the taste consumers want, is part of a growing platform we’ve developed over many years.

Last month we announced Heinz Tomato Ketchup 50% Less Sugars & Salt. And this month we are announcing the launch of a brand new recipe to our bean portfolio with Heinz No Added Sugar Beanz.

What has been the impact of these reduced sugar platforms? Our 50% Less Sugars Ketchup is enjoying a 3.9% share of total ketchup value in the latest 12 weeks and is still growing at 20% versus last year. It’s a similar story for Beanz.

As many big brands have learned over the years, it can be risky to change a much-loved recipe. But this important part of our innovation is helping us keep our categories relevant to the emerging needs of all consumers.

It is a tough moment for innovators with retailer resets and range rationalisations, and ever-higher entry costs. As brand owners we have to adapt to this reality by being more selective. We need to bring fewer and bigger bets, while at the same time proactively pruning our own complexity and bringing launches that truly add value for customers. Our ‘reduced’ ranges form a key part of this continued focus on consumer needs.

To retailers, I ask: do not lose focus on innovation in the drive for efficiency. They can and must co-exist if we are to grow categories long term. And acting responsibly on health is an important driver for the long-term health of the industry and more importantly the families that eat our products every day.

Peter Hall is sales director, UK retail, at The Kraft Heinz Company