Expert Opinion: How consumers are supporting sugar and calorie reduction 

By Anne Betty – AB Food Nutrition

Anne Betty AB Food Nutrition FDMB North West


A recent Public Health England (PHE) survey revealed that 9 out of 10 consumers feel that the solution to obesity is a combination of help from the government and the food industry (manufacturers, supermarkets and out of home sector), as well as making better individual choices. 87% of people also want unhealthy products near supermarket checkouts to be replaced with healthier options. 

With the current challenges set by government to reduce sugar and calories by 20% and consumers telling us for years that they want a greater choice of healthier products, it is more important than ever to respond through reformulation, introducing smaller packs or portions and increasing marketing investment in low or no sugar and reduced calorie alternatives. 

According to Public Health England (PHE), food companies can expect tougher measures if they do not speed up efforts to cut sugar from everyday foods. They could publicly name those who have missed sugar and calorie reduction targets – including restaurants, takeaways and cafes. 

Changing the ingredients in food gradually, so consumers don’t notice a change in taste, is one of the most accepted interventions to reduce sugar and calorie intakes, and focusing on everyday foods will increase the impact on the populations overall diet. But reformulation doesn’t just have to mean taking something out – there are also some nutrients we need to eat more of such as fibre, fruit & vegetables and oily fish. Increasing these in your food products can be beneficial not only to health but commercially as we see more consumers looking for healthier products.  

There are some great resources and a whole host of case studies available for free from the Institute of Grocery Distribution to help you begin your reformulation journey. 

In the meantime, here are some dates for the diary: 

Mid 2019: PHE aim to publish specific calorie reduction guidelines for a range of product categories. 

March 2021: Progress report of sugar reduction and a first assessment of progress on the calorie reduction programme. 

Mid 2025: PHE publish progress towards the 20% calorie reduction target.  

Anne Betty is a freelance registered nutritionist and the owner of AB Food Nutrition, the Nutrition and Labelling Partner for FDMB North West