Nestle – Salt Reformulation Case Study

Who: Nestlé was founded over 150 years ago and is based in the Swiss town of Vevey. It’s present in 190 countries around the world, with 308,000 employees. Nestlé is a global food manufacturing leader, offering a wide portfolio of products and services for people and their pets throughout their lives.

Product range: Uncle Toby’s, Nestlé cereal brands, Nescafé, Milo, Allen’s and Maggi Noodles.

Commitment to food & nutrition:

Nestlé has invested significantly over the years in reformulation and is committed to improving the nutrient profile of our products. Nestlé has made reformulation a firm priority for key products in our range, adopting a steady as she goes approach to reformulation.

Nestlé sees reducing sodium as a key focus to improve the nutritional value of our products.  In fact, we have been quietly working for many years on a broader framework of nutritional commitments that are embedded in our internal policies and targets.

To this end we established the Nestlé Nutritional Profiling System (NNPS) which is a tool used to benchmark products against nutrition criteria, which we call Nutritional Foundation (NF). Nestle subsequently made strong public commitments to reduce sodium, sugar and saturated fat by 10% in products that don’t meet our NF criteria by 2016.

Commitment to salt reduction:                  

Significantly, sodium is the nutrient that Nestlé have had the most success with, managing to reduce sodium levels around the world by 10.5% by the 2016 target date.  This has spurred us on to now make a new commitment to reduce the sodium we add in our products by a further 10% globally by 2020.

Demonstrating just how serious we are, Nestlé decided to focus first on products that children typically eat, including Uncle Tobys breakfast cereals and snacks as well as some of our bigger selling products like Maggi 2 Minute Noodles, recognising that this would have a bigger impact on sodium reduction.

Progress so far with salt reduction:

In Australia and New Zealand, between 2005 and 2015, Nestlé cut 95,781 kilograms of salt from our Maggi 2 Minute Noodle range alone[1]. In 2015 we reduced the sodium in our Uncle Tobys Le Snak range by over 30%, and between 2008 and 2015 we slowly reduced the sodium in Uncle Tobys Cheerios breakfast cereal by over 40%, from 480mg sodium to 265mg, ensuring the cereal meets the former Food and Health Dialogue sodium target (400mg/100g or less) for breakfast cereals.

Central to this process is the NNPS that sets NF criteria, including a benchmark for sodium, across 35 categories of food including complete meals, soups, sauces and condiments. This has not only driven a lot of reformulation and innovation with new products, but helps Nestlé respond to new recommendations from the World Health Organization or local guidelines and a constant cycle of rolling targets.

Once the targets are known, the process is then over to the product technology team to come up with solutions of how to achieve this. Critical to our success has been our research at a global level to discover how technology can support food reformulation and reduction of public health sensitive nutrients to help us to achieve our goals.

Recipe renovation isn’t a simple process and there are many challenges to be faced when ingredients are changed. The team at Nestlé recommend that these changes are made incrementally, so products inherently become healthier, but retain the taste consumers enjoy.

By adopting this progressive approach to reformulation, Nestlé have been able to cut the sodium content by up to 55 per cent across our Maggi 2 Minute Noodles standard range while maintaining consumer expectations for taste.

Key learnings Nestlé can share with industry:

When it comes to reformulating products to reduce sodium, Nestlé says challenges to reformulation in relation to customer acceptance is just one part – the other part is that sodium also plays a technical role in food products.

Nestlé state with refreshing honesty that there has been a lot of trial and error along the way, but at the heart of all our decisions is our consumers. Steps included working on solutions with our product technology team, as well as extensive taste testing by staff from right across the organisation to help get products to a point where they are ready to send it out to consumers to trial.

A crucial step in our success has been testing conducted by consumers in their home kitchens. This allowed us to see how our consumers prepare and eat products in the real world and to make sure the products still meet the high standards Nestlé demand.

A final piece of advice from the team at Nestlé – think about your target sodium level before you get to the product development stage. It’s much easier to formulate products to meet your commitment than it is to reformulate them later!

 Quote from Nestlé:

We hope that the insights provided here will be valuable for other food manufacturers on their food reformulation journey or working towards the same salt reduction goals that we have at Nestlé.”

Providing tastier and healthier choices requires a delicate balance. Nestlé has a longstanding program of continuous improvement in the nutritional profile of our food and beverage products, taking public health sensitive nutrients and positive nutrition into account,” said Sandra Martinez, Nestlé Australia CEO.

Contact details and/or website:

[1] Based on sodium reduction in 4 MAGGI Instant Noodle brands: Standard Noodles (Chicken flavour & Beef flavour) & Fat-Free Noodles (Chicken flavour & Beef flavour)