The sweet bakery industry in the US, as in the UK, is embroiled in the obesity debate and has had to develop healthier alternatives. One of the biggest health issues to arise in the US is trans-fats labelling regulation, which came into effect in January 2006. This requires US manufacturers to list trans fats separately on the Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP). The Food and Drug Administration’s ruling on trans fats is the first significant change to the NFP since the Nutritional, Labelling and Education Act (NLEA) regulations were

finalised in 1993.

The ruling on trans fats is part of a bigger labelling issue in the US. NLEA requirements mean that packaged foods now need to bear an NFP outlining product-specific information on serving size, calorie content and nutrient content. The label must also mark ‘percentage of daily allowance’ next to the quantities of fat, sodium, cholesterol, calorie, carbohydrate, sugar, dietary fibre, protein and vitamin/mineral outlined on the label.

In the UK, the Food and Drink Federation is working with the government and other stakeholders to ensure the availability of clearer nutrition information under revised EU provisions. It is especially encouraging its members to provide Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs) on packaging. But UK legislation is trailing behind the US and the trans-fats issue has not yet attracted the same level of attention here as in the US.

Maggie Dagostino, marketing director at Dawn Foods, says it has taken note and started removing trans fats from its products and introducing healthier lines, mirroring developments across the Atlantic. “The US public is looking for healthy alternatives to fat- and salt-laden foods, which has pushed many companies to focus on this area of NPD,” she comments.

Meanwhile, higher disposable incomes have triggered sales of premium bakery products in the US and according to the Simmons Market Research spring 2005 survey, 12% of the US population said they treat themselves to foods they know are not good for them.

“Our recent research in the UK directly mirrors the findings of our colleagues in the US,” says Ms Dagostino.

Coming soon? US trends

1. Health in the US is focused on balanced nutrition and portion control – moderation is a key message looking forward

2. Natural or organic is a key area as US consumers become more aware of the use of chemicals and artificial ingredients

3. The Atkins diet is on the wane and attention has shifted to the glycaemic index (GI diet). US manufacturers can make health claims for a healthy heart, vitamin B and E, magnesium, iron and selenium and maintaining glucose level.