Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Bryony Hirsch, Author at Impact on Urban Health
alt=

Childhood obesity Collaboration for Healthier Lives

Taking a bite out of the nation’s calories without impacting on sales 

Our case study with Samworth Brothers, as part of our CHL progress update.

What?

Adopting an innovative and customer focused reformulation approach, food manufacturer Samworth Brothers has successfully reduced calories across popular product ranges sold by Tesco, while maintaining or increasing sales.  

Through research and innovation the family business has made many products healthier, including pork pies, sandwiches and ready meals, while preserving the quality and taste that customers demand.  

How?

Delivering on its pledge to increase the healthiness of the Samworth Brothers’ product portfolio began with the removal of calories from many existing products, ranging from minor ingredient tweaks to extensive reformulation. Solutions implemented focused on identifying where higher calorie ingredients could be reduced without compromise to product quality and taste. These included reducing amounts of fat, sugar, meat and fish in some products. In others, ingredients were swapped, for example changing whole milk to skimmed in mashed potatoes or using lentils instead of meat in sausages.  

Key learnings

This work has demonstrated that seemingly minor recipe adjustments can have a major impact on saving calories. However, these adjustments do require a rigorous and comprehensive process of testing and validation, especially given the importance of ensuring these calorie reductions do not have a negative impact on sales. Consumers want no compromise on quality and taste. 

A good example of such recipe adjustments is shown by the reduction of mayonnaise and cheese weights in Tesco’s Smoked Ham and Mature Cheddar Sub by just a few grams. This removed 46 calories per portion, resulting in a decrease of over 464 million calories annually. Sales of this healthier sandwich actually increased after the reformulation.  

However, work to date indicates it is easier to make these types of changes to some categories than others. Many sandwiches and food to go products do not rely on the functionality of core ingredients in ways which savoury pastry products do. Further progress which will enable delivery of big reformulation targets for Tesco and for Samworth Brothers will require significant collaboration, in addition to innovation.

Data and results

Since 2018, 142 different Samworth Brothers’ products have been reformulated, including food to go, savoury and meat products and ready meals, which has resulted in more than 40 billion calories being removed from their products sold in Tesco.   

What’s next?

Wherever possible, the nutritional content of existing products will be improved on an innovative and customer focused basis, ensuring the quality and flavour consumers know and love are maintained. However, reformulation can only be taken so far as, for certain products, fats, salt and sugars play a functional role as ingredients and processing aids. So Samworth Brothers will explore innovative ways to address this challenge, such as using different cooking methods, looking into the use of hybrid blends of animal and plant proteins and unlocking the taste and texture of natural ingredients, in addition to the collaborative efforts with Tesco.

The company is also increasingly looking beyond reformulation. Process innovation, new products which are inherently lower calorie, investment in new technologies and acquisitions are all likely to play roles in developing the portfolio of the future – of healthier high quality and tasty products, combined with the heritage and values of the Samworth Brothers business.

<Back to CHL progress report