Caterlink: reducing sugar in primary school meals

Date : 14 February 2018

Statistics show that almost 25% of 4-5 years olds are overweight or obese which then increases to over one third by the time children are 10 years old1. In addition, children are consuming almost three times more sugar than recommended2. As a leading contract caterer specialising in the education market, Caterlink set about a project to reduce free sugars (sugars added to a food and drink, or the sugars in honey, syrup and fruit juice) in school meals.



Government recommendations state that an average school-aged child should consume no more than 21g of free sugars across the whole day, meaning 6.5g or less of free sugars in a school meal.

Caterlink analysed its menus to calculate the level of free sugars. With this information, the caterer decided to focus on reducing free sugars in desserts to a maximum of 6.5g per day, as per the guidance from the Children’s Food Trust.


To meet these recommendations, the team took a multifaceted approach:

  • Products and recipes high in free sugars were identified, removed, and alternatives sourced where possible (including products such as frozen fruit smoothies, jam tarts and chocolate krispie cakes)
  • Portion sizes were reduced in line with the School Food Standards where necessary
  • Ingredient swaps were made using dried or fresh fruit to keep desserts sweet
  • Flavoured yoghurts were removed from menus and replaced with natural yoghurt. Toppings were created to make it more palatable for children
  • Across the business, fruit and yoghurt-only dessert days were encouraged, some schools did this twice a week
  • Desserts with more than 50% fruit were encouraged on each menu, with crumbles, strudels and sponges proving popular


All Caterlink primary school desserts met a maximum of 6.5g of free sugars or less per serve, with a daily average of just 4.5g across the autumn 2017 and spring 2018 terms.

Based on the previous average, this resulted in an average reduction of 8.5g of sugars per day. The sum of this reduction across all Caterlink sites has resulted in a huge reduction of over 46,000kg of sugar per term, which is the same weight as six elephants or 100 grand pianos!

1NHS Digital (2017) National Child Measurement Programme, England 2016/17 School Year: NHS Digital.

2Public Health England (2016) National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Results from Years 5-6 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2012/13 – 2013/14).

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