With every year that passes, we better understand the effects and impacts our nutrition choices have on our bodies and on our minds. Nutritional and food science studies are constantly discovering new insights and learnings that help us improve the foods and beverages we produce. It would be therefore unrealistic to assume that brands within the food industry could keep up the pace with bringing out brand-new products in line with any new learnings. This is why food reformulation is important to help us to create healthier functional foods.
Reformulating an existing food product is often much more cost-effective and time-efficient for brands, as it allows us to make necessary changes to the recipe of a food or beverage item without having to begin the process from scratch.
What Does Reformulation Involve?
Reformulation, according to IGD, is the process of changing the ingredients of a product while trying to maintain its taste and flavour.
The food industry sees a lot of demand coming from its consumers in the area of free-from foods and beverages i.e. free from fat, low-sugar, gluten-free etc. Reformulation strategies can work to target an individual ingredient or a group of ingredients or nutrients that the product is composed of, or lacking. For example, we can implement certain reformulation strategies to reduce the amount of added sugar or salt in a product or to fortify a food or beverage with extra nutrients in order to enhance the overall nutritional value.
Many consumer insight surveys determine factors such as cost, quality and taste preference to be the most important purchase-decision drivers. How healthy a product is, does not often appear high on these surveys. And so we cannot realistically expect that the majority of consumers will choose healthy products on their own without some guidance from an institutional and/or brand level. 
This suggests that, from a food scientist’s perspective, it is part of our social responsibility to make the products we create for food and beverage brands as nutritiously rich as possible. Food reformulation can be an aid in achieving this goal.
What Are We Trying To Achieve Through Food Reformulation?
I believe that the ultimate goal of food reformulation should be to improve the health of our global population by creating increasingly healthier and more affordable foods and beverages.Large parts of the population across many countries are consistently consuming nutritionally poor foods and beverages which leads to an increase in non-communicable diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
These less than nutritious foods are often more readily available and affordable than their more nutritious counterparts which makes it difficult for lower-income families and individuals to make healthier choices when it comes to their nutritional needs.
What can we do about this? We can work towards reformulating existing foods and beverages into healthier and more affordable options. So that more people can afford them and we can raise the standards of our global nutritional health.
Challenges With Reformulation
The main challenge in reformulation is finding the right balance between making the necessary or requested changes to a product without altering the taste or texture too much. A consequence of the latter can be a loss in customer satisfaction and repeat sales, especially if your customers were happy with the original product.
As an example of this, sugar reduction is very on-trend right now and there are many alternatives making their way on to the market from the alternative ingredients side as well as new technologies and innovations. Sugar, however, is not an easy ingredient to extract or replace in a recipe, and similar to fat they both play strong sensory roles in the overall taste, texture, and mouthfeel of a product.
When reformulating, all of these aspects and more, are important to consider from a food science perspective. To ensure that your product remains as consistent as possible in the eyes of your consumers. That’s why you’ll often see new or adapted packaging to announce any changes to a recipe such as “30% less sugar, same great taste”. It can be a risky move to change a recipe and you want to make sure that your customers don’t see it as a negative.
It is important that as responsible brands and food industry business owners, we look to the most up to date information and studies available to help us make better and more informed decisions when it comes to the type of food and beverage products we create so as to work towards shaping a healthier global population.
For any questions regarding reformulation projects for your business or brand, you can reach Raphaelle directly on [email protected].
iNewtrition is an Innovation as a Service (IaaS) agency for the food & beverage, and health & wellness industries. We provide agile customer solutions, end-to-end support, or can simply help you overcome specific bottlenecks to fast track innovation and product development. The services and expertise we offer are on-demand and available to you instantly via our online booking platform. Our skills combined cover every step of your innovation journey, from feasibility study, product design or development, to post-launch scale-up. Contact Raphaelle at [email protected] to start your journey.
 V. Raikos and V. Ranawana, 2019. Reformulation as a Strategy for Developing Healthier Food Products.
 Judith L. Buttriss, 2020. Why food reformulation and innovation are key to a healthier and more sustainable diet.