Tesco: overcoming technical challenges with ingredient changes when reformulating

Date : 10 January 2017

In order to make products healthier for shoppers and meet consumer demand, Tesco was keen to reformulate its food-to-go range. They decided to start with a honey and mustard pasta to reduce the calorie and fat content.



The 300g pot contained 702 calories and 35.5g of fat. The product used a high fat mayonnaise to help create a stable emulsion of the honey and mustard ingredients. If this emulsion is not maintained, the end product will result in inconsistent quality due to a lack of viscosity from the sauce to coat the pasta.

Tesco’s reformulation project focused on moving this product from red to amber on the front-of-pack traffic lights, with a particular focus on the salad dressing used.


Here’s how Tesco reformulated its products:

  1. During reformulation recipes are tweaked on paper and then made, on a small scale, in a development kitchen
  2. The redeveloped product is then compared to the original for flavour, and if a significant change is detected the product is sent for independent sensory testing
  3. Once the product is deemed as good as, if not better than, the original from a flavour perspective, it’s chilled for the course of its life. The product is tested on a daily basis for organoleptic qualities such as sight, taste and smell
  4. Once the new product has passed tests at the beginning and end of its life, manufacturing is scaled up
  5. The tasting process is then repeated to ensure that there isn’t a difference between the development kitchen and manufactured samples

Honey and lower fat mayonnaise don’t mix

For the honey and mustard pasta, Tesco challenged its mayonnaise supplier to develop a 20% lower fat product which had its technical challenges due to the dressing splitting over life.

This initially created some issues around the splitting of the dressing over the life of the product due to enzymes in the honey. Traditional cornflour starches cannot be used to thicken dressings where honey is an ingredient. A solution was found through a trial and error process to improve stability and shelf life.


Reformulation on this product took approximately 12 months. However, by changing the honey and mustard pasta alone, in 2015-2016 Tesco removed 22 tonnes of fat.

On the pasta product:

  • Fat was reduced from 35.5g to 18.6g
  • Saturated fat was reduced from 4.9g to 4.5g
  • The fat content was reduced from 51% GDA to 27% GDA
  • The energy of the product was reduced from 702 Kcal to 538 Kcal

The improvement and reduction in saturated fat meant the product moved from amber to green on the traffic light system on the front of the pack, and the project was a success, with Tesco able to offer a new, healthier, food-to-go alternative for shoppers on the move.

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