Less sugar, fewer calories
We’re cutting sugar and calories, but not the taste or pleasure from our products.
The sweet truth
Sugars are inherently present in some ingredients in our foods and beverages – such as fruits, vegetables and milk. As sweetness is one of the basic taste sensations, sugars play an important role in making products enjoyable for consumers. And sugar is also sometimes included for texture and structure, such as in ice cream, to make it smooth and creamy.
However, many authorities (like the World Health Organization) have expressed concern that eating too much sugar can increase the risk of weight gain as well as tooth decay. The WHO advises limiting free sugar (meaning any added sugar as well as natural sugars in honey, syrups and fruit juices) to below 10% of total energy intake.
We support the position that energy intake from sugars should be limited in line with recommendations. Between 2010 and 2019, we have removed 23% of sugar across all our sweetened tea-based beverages. And by 2020, we will remove 25% of sugar from our ready-to-drink tea products, as explained in our position statement on sugar (PDF | 424KB).
Finding sugar alternatives for our ready-to-drink teas
We’re working hard to reduce sugar in our ready-to-drink tea, powdered ice tea and milk tea products. To meet our stretching target, we’ve developed more drinks that meet our Highest Nutritional Standards (HNS) of 5 g or less of sugar per 100 ml.
We give people a 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 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’re collaborating with universities and other organisations. 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.
Lipton ice teas – less sugar, just as refreshing
Soft drinks are heavily scrutinised for their sugar content, and more people than ever before are health-conscious and seeking ‘better for you’ products.
We’ve been reformulating our Lipton ready-to-drink ice teas in recent years. Pepsi Lipton, for example, is a joint venture between Unilever and PepsiCo. Since 2010, we’ve removed 23% of sugar – that’s the equivalent of 159 billion sugar cubes and 2,500 billion calories saved. Currently, 63% is below 5 g of sugar per 100 ml, meeting Unilever’s Highest Nutritional Standards (HNS).
In 2019, we made even more progress. In Brazil, for example, we removed 100% of sugar in all our retail Pepsi Lipton ready-to-drink ice teas. In Australia and New Zealand, all bottled Lipton ice teas meet our HNS. And in 38 of our global markets, over 90% of our retail Pepsi Lipton ready-to-drink ice teas are HNS compliant.
To reduce sugar even further without using artificial sweeteners, in Australia and New Zealand, we launched a new line called Lipton Lightly Sweetened, with low sugar and a naturally less sweet taste. Lightly Sweetened has less than 2.5 g of sugar per 100 ml, which is 78% less sugar than the average soft drink, and 37% less sugar than our original Lipton Ice Tea. Similar to the regular versions, this line contains no artificial sweeteners, colours, flavours or preservatives, and the black tea leaves used are certified as sustainable by the Rainforest Alliance.
This work contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goals
We’re reducing sugar in savoury products too
Most of the sugar in our food products occurs naturally, in small quantities from vegetable ingredients such as tomatoes and carrots. So to have the biggest impact on public health, our focus is on lowering sugar in our ready-to-drink teas and ice cream. However, we’re also working to lower sugar across other products in our portfolio.
Our Hellmann’s ketchup with Stevia is available in various European countries like France, Greece, Poland and Germany. These have up to 45% less sugar and meet our HNS. In Chile, we offer Hellmann's Ketchup Light with 55% less salt and 60% less sugar, making it HNS compliant while keeping its appealing flavour.
Naturally sweet Unox soup pouches
Cutting sugar from ready-to-eat soups may sound like an easy task, but the sugar actually contributes to the taste, structure and stability of the products. As a first step, we’ve been conducting research into ways we can reduce sugar levels in our soups in the Netherlands.
Sugar can be found naturally in some vegetables more than others, so we experimented with different vegetables and recipes. As a result, we’ve taken major steps with our Unox soup pouches to reduce or even completely remove added sugars from most of our soups.
Eight of our soups contain no added sugars and are compliant with our HNS. Instead of added sugar, soups like our Unox Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup, Organic Pea Soup and Extra Richly Filled Hungarian Goulash Soup rely on the natural sweetness of their vegetable content.
“Tomato soups are more difficult to cut sugar from and still get the right taste, so we will continue working on these in 2020,” explains Annekee-van-den Berg, one of our management trainees. “As well as reducing sugar and cutting added sugar wherever possible, our soup packs refer consumers to our Unox website for more information about the natural sweetness of vegetables.”
This work contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goal
Cutting calories in ice cream
Ice cream is refreshing and fun to eat all year round, and especially on hot sunny days. Treats contribute to wellbeing and pleasure, which we believe is important in life. 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 also know how important it is to lower calories without sacrificing taste.
In 2019, we created Magnum No Added Sugar with 4 g of total sugar per serving. The vanilla caramel flavour offers the perfect balance of cracking Magnum milk chocolate, vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce with only 154 calories. So far, we’ve introduced this and a forest fruits version (also with only 154 calories) in the UK.
Our progress on calorie reduction
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 portion. And in 2019, 93% of our packaged ice creams did not exceed 250 kcals per portion.
(A portion refers to a pre-packed single-serve ice cream product meant to be consumed in one go. It also refers to 100 ml when ice cream is sold in larger packaging such as tubs.)
Moo-phoria’s mouth-watering flavours
Our product developers are redesigning recipes, reducing fat and sugar to lower calorie content. In 2018, for example, we introduced Ben & Jerry's Moo-phoria, light ice cream pints with 50% less fat and fewer calories than regular Ben & Jerry’s variants. The ice creams have similar levels of sweetness, using a blend of natural sugars, and are still rich and full of flavour.
In 2019, we managed to cut sugar by a further 20% by revising the recipe for our Moo-phoria white base mix. We’ve introduced new mouth-watering flavours, like buttery brown sugar ice cream, chocolatey popcorn chunks, and sweet and salty caramel swirls. And in 2019, we introduced 100 ml mini cups of Moo-phoria.
“So far, we’ve delighted Ben & Jerry’s fans with Moo-phoria across 15 countries in Europe, North America and Asia,” explains Ran Harel, Global R&D Director, Ben & Jerry’s. “And we’ve invested a lot in marketing to encourage people to try these new ice creams. Sales – particularly of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Cookie Dough Moo-phoria – suggest that consumers love them as much as we do.”
This work contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goal
As well as reducing the sugar and calories in our products, we are committed to encouraging people to make healthier choices through clear labelling and balanced portions.