Responding to the global obesity challenge

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For World Obesity Day 2019, Will Ballantyne, Category Technical Manager at Tate & Lyle’s Technical Service Centre and Pilot Plant in Mold, North Wales explains how he and his team help food companies to reformulate recipes and support efforts to tackle obesity.

Mold pilot plant

How do you help customers to make their products healthier?

“My team specialise in bakery and convenience food formulation, and help producers of these types of products spread across Europe to adapt their recipes or processes using our ingredients and solutions. We always start by working to understand what the customer is looking to achieve and what the end consumer wants from the product - the look, smell or taste, what’s on the ingredient list, or its nutrition content, for instance.

“As sugar and calorie reduction are such key trends, manufacturers, particularly large brands, will often have their own goals that they’re working to, and the retailers they sell to often do as well. Manufacturers tend to get a lot of direction from their retailer customers, for instance a brief to reduce sugar by a certain percentage by a set deadline.

“In our test kitchen Mold we help them deliver on these briefs by trialing lots of different recipe variations until we find a solution that meets the objective, delivers a taste and eating experience consumers will enjoy, and behaves in a predictable way in our ‘pilot plant’. At this point, the customer will move to running trials in their own facilities.”

Is sugar reduction more of a focus for manufacturers than calorie reduction?

“Sugar reduction has certainly become more of a focus of our work with manufacturers in recent years, particularly those in the UK that have long standing reformulation programmes or are subject to Government’s sugar reduction goals, but it’s also an established global trend.

“Experts agree that one of the main contributors to obesity is too many calories rather than any single nutrient, but as sugar is a significant source of calories for many, there has been a lot of focus on reducing it in the diet in recent years. With this in mind we always look for opportunities to reduce calories where we can so we can support customer efforts to tackle obesity.”

How do you help customers cut sugar and calories?

“Many bakery products are what we call ‘highlight sweet’ and so subtle/stealth reductions can be done without impacting sweetness. Natural flavours like vanilla can be used for taste, and other ingredients like fibre to replace sugar’s other functions like bulk or mouth feel.

What do Tate & Lyle do in Mold specifically?

Will Ballentine, Category Technical Manager at Tate & Lyle’s Technical Service Centre and Pilot Plant in Mold

“We have around 100 employees working here, mostly involved in making ingredient blends for our customers across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, from smaller producers to major brands. We’re part of a global network of 18 application labs, but here we have technical teams of scientists specialising in bakery, dairy products, and soups, sauces and dressings.

“Like most of our colleagues around the business, we get a real kick out of seeing products with our ingredients on-shelf and I’m always proud to pop into the high street café chains we work with to see the latest cakes or biscuits that we’ve helped to reduce sugar, fat or calories in.

“That feeling that we’re making a positive difference and delivering on our purpose of Improving Lives for Generations is why we do what we do.”

Will Ballantyne, Category Technical Manager, Bakery, at Tate & Lyle’s Technical Service Centre and Pilot Plant in Mold


Learn more about the key trend of sugar and calorie reduction we call Quality of Carbs here