What is reformulation?



Many companies across the food and consumer goods industry are reformulating their products to meet consumer demands and government policy. This section describes what reformulation is and why it’s important to the industry.


What is reformulation?

Put very simply, for the food and consumer goods industry, reformulation is the process of changing the ingredients of a product, usually while trying to maintain taste and flavour.

Holistic reformulation considers the entirety of the product being reformulated and involves judging whether the product can achieve specific nutrient targets whilst improving its overall nutritional profile.

Why reformulate?

Consumer attitudes and expectations

Suppliers in food retail face various challenges. Market growth is slow, prices are transparent, and people are shopping around to get the best deals. Those slow to adjust are losing market share, so both retailers and manufacturers aim to grow by exploring new ways to add value and differentiate. So how do you remain competitive? One proven solution is to tap into the health and wellness trend.

Consumers are increasingly demanding healthier options as most shoppers take ultimate responsibility for their own diet1. This translates to more consumers looking for healthier food choices in the supermarket aisles. Health has a greater impact on purchasing decisions than ever before2.

More post-millennials (18- 25-year olds) wanted to see an increase in vegetarian ranges, compared to a third of over-26-year-olds, and 41% were seeking more vegan food-to-go options.

Source: IGD Research

Dairy- and gluten- free ranges are also something post-millennials want to see more of (39% and 35% respectively).

Not only are consumers looking for healthier options. They’re often willing to pay more for higher-quality products, which are often associated with health.

Due to this increase in demand, health is now a major business opportunity.

Corporate social responsibility

No single food or drink product can be held responsible for the obesity crisis. However, each product can contribute to reducing obesity if it’s reformulated to be healthier.

The UK has seen rates of obesity more than double in the last 25 years. In one scenario, the Foresight Report (2007)3 hypothesised that if no action were taken half of the UK adult population could be obese by 2050.

There’s been a particularly steep rise amongst children. Today nearly a third of children aged two to 15 are overweight. Younger generations are becoming obese earlier, staying obese for longer and are more likely to become obese adults.

Tackling obesity has been a priority in England for more than two decades. In 2016, Public Health England (PHE) launched the Childhood Obesity plan, which aims to halve childhood obesity rates in England over the next ten years. The plan now takes a holistic approach considering energy, promotions, and advertising.

Read our summary on the Childhood Obesity Plan (COP) guides to reformulating your products based on nutrients using the links below.

Business benefits

In addition to meeting consumer demands and policy targets, businesses have a lot to gain from reformulation. Reformulating products can open opportunities to make health claims, giving your products a stronger case for gaining a listing with retailers or caterers that are seeking to boost their health credentials. Differentiating from competitors as a healthier product also reduces the risk of negative publicity and incurring possible measures by government such as tax on your ingredients.

Tapping into the health and wellness trend and improving the nutritional balance of your products means doing the right thing for your consumers. Of course, developing products that are as healthy as possible but also tasty, with a good mouthfeel, competitively priced and safe, is no simple matter. But a growing number of companies are proving it can be done.

The resources on our website brings together the latest official guidance on reformulation, highlights from our shopper research and best practice examples from food and grocery companies.

1ShopperVista research 2019
3Foresight: Tackling Obesities: Future Choices – Project Report (2007)

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