Univar taps clean labels and “wholesome cravings,” as FDA redefines meaning of healthy food
26 Jan 2023 --- Foodology by Univar Solutions has unveiled its “Wholesome Cravings” campaign, targeting and providing producers with ingredients and formulations required to make products healthier. In doing so, the company aims to enable producers to achieve cleaner labeling on final products while being mindful of pending US government tightening of regulations concerning healthy food descriptions.
Lavanya Venkateswar, director of technical sales and marketing for food ingredients, expands on how the campaign responds to growing consumer demands and government regulations.
“Over the last couple of years with the pandemic, consumers in general are more conscious about what they consume,” she tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“They are concerned about their health and wellness, not just physical but also mental well-being. Anyone in the F&B industry knows about this trend. It’s about feeling better, about making sure your immune system is up and running properly.”
Venkateswar explains how the campaign draws from that trend and how recent US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changes have influenced Foodology by Univar Solution’s campaign.
“There’s a huge trigger for this campaign, which happened here in North America. Last year, the FDA proposed a change to the definition of healthy foods,” she explains.
“The last time the FDA made a change or even talked about what healthy foods constitute was back in 1994. This is the first time they’re proposing a change in how they define ‘healthy foods.’ This time around, it’s partially making sure any fruits and vegetables are all automatically considered healthy instead of analyzing them in depth, but mostly about looking at things like oils, for example, which can perhaps be considered healthy.”
The FDA measures and defines what it considers to be healthy levels of key ingredients such as sugar, sodium and oil.
Labeling healthy foods
Venkateswar explains how the FDA is developing a package symbol to mark foods that qualify as “healthy” under its assessment system.
“The FDA is developing a healthy packaging symbol. In the US, there’s a lot of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, which led the FDA to approach changing the regulation around healthy foods and creating this label,” she continues.
“We work with F&B manufacturers across different applications – beverage, dairy, big goods, snacks – to make their product healthier and qualify for the new healthy claim label.”
Any products awarded with the symbol will gain a front-of-package benefit that will draw the eye of health-conscious consumers.
“The trigger for the consumer to buy is easier by putting this universal healthy symbol on the front of the package.”
“From a consumer standpoint, this label makes it easier for them to understand what they’re buying. Whether it’s a product they need to pick off the shelf because it’s healthier or not, it’s easier for them,” she notes.
Enabling healthier food production
Meanwhile, Venkateswar gives an example of the process Foodology by Univar Solutions enables, whereby producers can change ingredients to allow healthier products for labeling and customer concern without compromising on taste.
“Consumers want the same eating quality of the finished product. They want the product to taste a certain way. For example, they won’t eat a product without sweetness. But how much sugar is in the product to enable that sweetness? That’s where we can help food manufacturers,” she insists.
“Reformulation and sugar reduction is one of the most crucial elements that every food and beverage manufacturer will look at, so we can say we have a portfolio of high-intensity, natural sweeteners.”
Further, Venkateswar is confident that Foodology by Univar Solutions can help its customers maintain mouth feel and sugar reduction, for example. “That’s the conversation we’re having more of with our customers.”
Clean conscience products
Consumers are also looking for “clean conscience” products, which display sustainability benefits.
Venkateswar outlines how the company addresses this issue. “We can enable ‘Fresh-keeping for sustainability.’ The longer a product is considered fresh in the consumer’s mind, the better. If you think about bread, for example, microbiologically, it’s absolutely fine to consume after a week, but if you leave it out and it gets dry or hard, it gets thrown out.”
“We end up throwing out a lot of food because people perceive it as having gone off. That’s where we step with a good option, a fresh-keeping enzyme from Novozymes keeps the product softer for longer, which leads to less food waste.”
The future of healthy foods
Venkateswar outlines what she thinks will be the next big thing in healthy eating.
“Clean labels. There is no legal definition for it, and if you look at the last 20 years, the definition of clean label has evolved substantially. It went from just taking out very positive-sounding chemical ingredients and replacing them with more pantry-sounding ingredients.”
Then we moved from that to plant-based foods, and consumers are getting more educated. Now, they’re asking about plant-based meat, asking, ‘Are all the ingredients on the package? They’re clean label?’ The question is, how do you create a clean label on plant-based meat?”
“Moving forward, there’s going to be a closer intersection between healthy eating, clean label and sustainability,” she concludes.
By James Davies
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