Improving nutrition

This work supports the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Good Health and Wellbeing
  • Partnership For The Goals
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  4. Less sugar, fewer calories

Less sugar, fewer calories

We are cutting sugar and calories, but not the taste of our products.

Moo-phoria low cal

The sweet truth

Sugars are present in foods and beverages as an inherent component of some ingredients and are added for their sweetening properties and for technical reasons such as to provide texture, structure, colour and flavour to a product. As sweetness is one of the basic taste sensations, sugars play an important role in enjoyment and pleasure of the product for consumers.

However, excess energy intake, from any source including sugar, leads to weight gain and ultimately to being overweight or obese. Many authorities have expressed concern that consuming too much sugar can increase risks of excessive energy intake and tooth decay. We support the position that energy intake from sugars should be limited in line with recommendations by a number of organisations, such as the World Health Organization’s strong recommendation to limit free sugar intake to below 10% of the total energy intake.

To this end, we believe that the reduction of sugars in our portfolio will assist consumers in selecting foods and beverages more consistent with current dietary recommendations which, in turn, help them maintain healthy dietary practices. The infographic below provides a few examples of sugar and calorie reduction across our portfolio in 2018.

less sugar fewer calories

Reducing sugar in our ready-to-drink tea products

We’ve been playing our part, reducing sugar in our products for more than a decade. We focus on our ready-to-drink tea, powdered ice tea and milk tea products.

By 2020, we will remove 25% of sugar from our ready-to-drink tea products, as set out in our position statement on sugar (PDF | 424KB). To meet this stretching target, we developed more drinks that meet our Highest Nutritional Standards (HNS) of 5g or less sugar per 100ml. And by 2018, we had removed 20% of sugar across all our sweetened tea-based beverages (against a 2010 baseline).

We give people choice by offering lower sugar options, ready-to-drink teas with less sweetness, as well as ones with no added sugar. In some, we use non-nutritive sweeteners like Stevia (steviol glycosides). A systematic scientific review published in the International Journal of Obesity says that these are effective in reducing energy intakes, and have a beneficial effect on weight control.

To gain a deeper understanding of people’s preferences for different levels of sweetness, we are collaborating with universities and other partners. For example, we’re an active partner in the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC) research programme. This public-private partnership has supported independent academic research projects on a range of topics, including reduced levels of salt or sugar in liquid and semi-liquid foods and understanding decisions about portion size. This will help us go further in the future, while making sure our products still taste great.

Spotlight

Matcha ice tea

Pepsi Lipton: a winning blend

Pepsi Lipton is a joint venture between Unilever and PepsiCo. In line with both Unilever and PepsiCo’s commitments, we pledged to reduce sugar in Pepsi Lipton ready-to-drink teas by 25% by 2020, compared to a 2010 baseline.

By the end of 2018, we had exceeded this target, having removed 26% of sugar – that’s the equivalent of 114 billion sugar cubes and 1,800 billion calories saved cumulatively between 2010 and 2018.

Currently, 87% of our portfolio is below 7g of sugar per 100ml and 60% is below 5g of sugar per 100ml, meeting Unilever’s Highest Nutritional Standards (HNS). The average sugar content of our ready-to-drink tea portfolio is now less than of 5g sugar per 100ml and 20 kilocalories (kcals) per 100ml. And the absolute amount of sugar we now use in our portfolio is less than it was in 2010, despite our portfolio growing year-on-year.

In 2018, we reformulated several variants and introduced innovations, meeting our HNS. In the US, for example, we reduced sugar by 35-40% in four Brisk variants, to 4.8 g of sugar per 100ml. We also launched several new Brisk teas at 4.8 g of sugar per 100ml, like Brisk Fruteria.

In Europe, we reduced the sugar content of Lipton Ice Tea by 30% in many countries, to 4.5 g per 100ml. We introduced Lipton Ice Tea Matcha at 3.5 g per 100ml. And in South Africa, we reduced the sugar content in all six variants by 25-50% to 4.5 g per 100ml.

“This is just a snapshot of the huge amount of work our teams have carried out to reduce sugar in our ready-to-drink teas,” says Eva Kovacs, our Nutrition Manager supporting Pepsi Lipton between 2010 and 2018. “From North America, Latin America and South Africa, across Europe to Asia and Australia, we are committed to reducing the sugar and calorie content in our ready-to-drink teas even more.”

Reducing sugar across our Foods portfolio

Most of the sugar in our Foods products occur naturally, in small quantities from vegetable ingredients, like tomatoes and carrots. Therefore, to have the biggest impact on public health, our focus remains on lowering sugar in our Refreshment products, like beverages and ice cream. However, we are still working to lower sugar across other products in our portfolio.

Our Hellmann’s ketchup sweetened only with honey instead of white sugar, allowing for sugar reduction in the end product, is sold in the UK, France, Greece, Germany, Spain and Brazil. Our Hellmann’s ketchups with Stevia – available in various European countries like France, Greece, Poland and Germany – have up to 45% less sugar and meet our HNS.

Cutting calories in ice cream

Ice cream is refreshing and fun to eat all year round, especially on hot sunny days. Treats contribute to wellbeing and pleasure in life, and play an essential role in everyone’s diet.

As the world’s leading ice cream company – selling much-loved brands like Wall’s, Magnum, Cornetto, Ben & Jerry’s, Max/Paddle Pop and Breyers – we know how important it is to lower calories without sacrificing taste.

How do we do this? Our product developers work hard to redesign recipes, reducing fat and sugar, in order to lower calorie content. We also sell mini versions of our much-loved ice cream brands. In 2018, for example, we introduced Ben & Jerry's Moo-phoria, light ice cream pints with fewer calories and less fat than regular Ben & Jerry’s variants.

In 2014, we achieved our target for all our children’s ice creams to contain 110 kcals or less per serving and have maintained this every year since. We then applied our learnings to the rest of our packaged ice cream portfolio. In 2015, we met our target to ensure that at least 80% of our packaged ice creams do not exceed 250 kcals per portion1. In 2018, 92% of our packaged ice creams did not exceed 250 kcals per portion.

Spotlight

Breyers low cal

Breyers Delights – the ice cream treat for health-conscious consumers

Following the successful launch of Breyers Delights in the US last year, we introduced this delicious ice cream range to 11 countries in Europe in 2018. Breyers Delights gives consumers a lower sugar and lower calorie product, without compromising on taste.

The new range of ice cream tubs is available in nine flavours and each 500ml tub contains only 290-370 kcal. Compared to similar ice cream products, this means up to 57% fewer calories and up to 60% less sugar per 100g, depending on the variant.

“To give the ice cream the sweetness people love and expect, while limiting sugar and calories, we use a naturally sourced, purified extract from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant” explains Andrew Sztehlo, our VP R&D Ice Cream. “In addition, each tub of Breyers Delights contains 20g of protein from two naturally occurring milk proteins – casein and whey. Finally, we use fresh cream to give the ice cream its deliciously creamy taste and texture.”

1 A portion refers to a pre-packed single-serve ice cream product meant to be consumed in one go. It also refers to 100ml when ice cream is sold in larger packaging such as tubs.

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