Paul Wilkinson: Are we able to meet the target of the 10% saturates reduction in cakes, biscuits and pastries without significantly compromising on the taste of the product? What do you not the businesses you work for think? Show of hands, how many people think this will be a very difficult thing to do by 2012? [Nine show hands]. How many think it’s a pretty normal challenge at the end of the day? [Five show hands]. I just wanted to get some sort of idea. So is the industry geared up to do this?
Matt Verney: I think it will be difficult to reduce it without affecting product quality, because we do a range of buttered croissants, Danish pastries and Viennoiserie. A lot of research has been put in place beforehand to find the right level [of fat], and if we are going to have to reduce it by 10%, this is going to affect quality, taste, flavour and texture. So we have huge concerns about reducing the fat content.
Ivor McKane: I see saturated fats and calories as being two separate topics and I think there is a danger if we fail to separate saturates and calorie reductions as being two different streams.
Peter Quinn: It’s difficult and it’s going to be product-specific. There will be products that are easier and products that will be extremely difficult to do.
Having already been through a fat reduction exercise with the Melton Mowbray Pork Pies Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, we’ve learned a lot and also understand the consumers’ prospective. They are very sensitive to that, so this process could have a negative effect on the bottom line. Technically, yes it’s possible, but if the consumer doesn’t like it, it’s wrong.
Stan Cauvain: I don’t think we should underestimate the scale of the technical challenges, especially when delivering what are accepted sensory characteristics. Consumers have a perception of how things should taste. While, technically, we may reduce levels of saturated fats, if that doesn’t deliver those accepted characteristics, consumers will walk away.
Biscuit products will probably give you the most immediate opportunities for fat reduction where the functionality of fat, in terms of developing the structure, is less than it is in, say, a laminated product. [It will be easier] in those products where structural functionality does not come primarily from fats.
Steve Knapton: Compared to some competitors, businesses that have already lowered fats can be a victim of their own success, because they’ve already achieved that.
Chris Beresford: My biggest worry is that once it is reduced, the FSA may come back and ask for another 10%.
Paul Wilkinson: Is the reduction dependent on fats suppliers developing new products? And who needs the skills? Is it the process technologists in the bakery companies or has the knowledge base got to come from the suppliers?
Dr Angus Keech: If you take into consideration the man hours and technology needed to do it, it’s not a drop-in solution, especially when you’re looking to fundamentally change how you do something.
Chris Beresford: You’ve literally got to take every product back to the test bakery. Once you take anything back to test stage, you’ve got to come up with a new formulation and check how it will affect shelf-life. Each one will perform differently. And once you’ve got those past consumer panels, you’ve then got to see how it performs in the plant.
Jo Bruce: For a 10% reduction, we already have that knowledge base. But if you were to go to a 50% reduction, then you would have to completely change the process. But all the fat manufacturers have applications specialists who could help with those plans.
Susan Werro: I was just thinking about our cheese straws. We cannot go to our local dairy supplier and say to them, ’You must have the expertise to magically make your butter reduced fat’. We are the technical support for them to get the product to the standard the retailers will accept!
Paul Wilkinson: So does the technology exist to make the changes without compromising the product?
Jo Bruce: If you’ve got butter in there, then it’s going to be enormously difficult.
Stephen Airey: If butter is a defining ingredient, we recognise that it may not be possible, so you’ve got a get-out-of-jail card if, for example, it’s an all-butter shortbread.
Paul Wilkinson: But isn’t that an issue of unintended consequences? You take 10% out of certain things and they don’t taste as good and everybody starts buying the butter products! So you say that however hard we try, the product will never be the same. Is that the general view?
Gary Atkinson: It will depend. If you are working on a Swiss roll, for instance, you can probably get away with very little change in the quality. But if you try and change a premium range product, there is going to be a much, much more noticeable difference.
Chris Beaney: We are dependent on fats manufacturers to supply us with a product that gives us the same standard of goods that we want to offer in our shops. I think it will take time to develop these; we will have to do trials and so forth.
The two main areas are probably puff pastry and non-dairy creams. If these new fats not only do a similar job to what we are used to, but also retain certain flavours, then I think craft bakers would be quite happy to change at their own pace. We have to prove to them that their products won’t suffer.
Paul Wilkinson: So is it achievable, full stop, to match the same product, or is it subject to a degradation of perceived quality?
Gary Atkinson: I guess it depends, again, on whether we take the approach of reformulating products or whether we reformulate for a separate line of reduced-saturated fat products, providing alternatives. Of course, there are low-fat products already out there on the market.
Paul Wilkinson: Would the FSA regard that as a cop-out?
Rosemary Hignett: We’d like to see reformulation in the mainstream, as well as continuing innovation in reduced-fat products.
Paul Wilkinson: How much is the cost of the product going to go up in light of reformulation, development costs, processing costs in the bakery 5%, 10%, 2%...? That is assuming we would all want to retain the same margin.
Chris Beaney: It could be 10-20%, especially if there’s an increase in the cost of oils and so on.
Steve Knapton: There may be hidden costs involved if you account for lost sales.
Stan Cauvain: One of the exercises we’ve carried out for a company on this suggests an increase of between 15% and 17% on the selling price.
Peter Quinn: 2008 was a year of global inflation on food prices that went way beyond 15%, so I imagine price recovery would be very difficult.
Paul Wilkinson: If we reduce portion sizes by 10%, is that a practical proposition? Part of the consultation is to try to encourage manufacturers to produce smaller portion
sizes for consumers.
Peter Quinn: There was an article in The Times recently, which looked at reducing portion sizes. When the consumer understood that this was probably done by stealth, there was a very ’anti’ reaction to it.
Paul Wilkinson: Does that mean that if we, as an industry, agree to go down this road, we just do it, and don’t tell the consumer?
Jo Bruce: We’re not allowed to market products as 10% reduced saturated fats on the box and that is a serious disincentive. How can the craft baker then choose it?
Chris Beaney: How much research has been done to find out if this is something the consumer actually wants?
Paul Wilkinson: Is 2012 a practical timescale? Or should it be 2015?
Susan Werro:  is not practical, to get new equipment in to do different lamination techniques we’re just not big enough; we have a small technical team and over 100 SKUs (stock-keeping units).
Dr Angus Keech: You would have to fundamentally change your ingredients portfolio.
Stan Cauvain: Some companies are looking at three to five years from now, to deal with the re-engineering issues.
Gary Atkinson: And an important point is how you are actually going to measure this. Is it simply about a proactive approach from the industry or will there be something else as well?
Stephen Airey: I’m looking into monitoring this through a commitments/achievement table maybe with specific sectors of biscuits, cakes and pastry, making them a combined entry or progress against recommendations. We will probably be doing some sampling in some sectors. If we just relied on industry data, then we could be accused of not doing our jobs properly or not being independent.
Rosemary Hignett responds: Three things strike me. The first is the co-operation of the industry around this issue. The second is the role of retailers around this agenda and that’s something Stephen and I want to take back to consider. And the third one is your concern about international positioning.
I’ve heard very clearly that there are some solutions out there, but it’s very important to think product-specific around this issue. Now, to mention portion sizes, I want to say that I agree that reducing portion size by stealth is absolutely not a good idea, because if you get found out, then you are in trouble in terms of your image.
Finally, I just want to say on saturated fat intakes, the latest information that we have is 2000 and 2001 data; saturated fats are too high, they are at 13.3% of energy, and they should be at 11% of energy, so intake is too high. We will get the next data on saturated fat intakes in early 2010; we will then get annual figures on saturated fat intakes from the National Diet and Nutrition survey, which will enable us to track what is happening on an annual basis. That will obviously be very helpful, but that’s only as good as the information you have on what’s in the product people are eating.
l To read the full debate download British Baker’s The Big Bakery Debate consultation document today at www.bakeryinfo.co.uk