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The Kraft Heinz Company: “Our dream is zero added salt!”

Published: 23-05-2017, | Member: The Kraft Heinz Company

Salt reduction is nothing new for the Kraft Heinz Company: they have been making concrete reductions for several decades now but, according to their product developers, much more can be achieved. “We keep searching for new solutions”, says Janneke Burgers.

 

Kraft Heinz, with 26 brands and an enormous portfolio, is a leading global food manufacturer. “We feel responsible for marketing products which are as healthy as possible”, says Janneke Burgers, Product Development Manager Benelux. “Salt reduction is an essential part of our strategy.”

Two-way strategy

The company uses a two-pronged strategy for salt reduction. “We gradually – and invisibly – improve the composition of current products”, says Burgers, “and we develop entirely new products with, for example, 50% lower salt levels compared to their mainstream competitors. These novel products are attracting new groups of health-conscious consumers.”

With current products, government regulations tend to direct salt reduction, but meeting consumer expectations is crucial. “We carry out extensive sensory and consumer testing to ensure the taste profiles of reformulated products are identical to their predecessors”, stresses Burgers. With new products and low salt concepts, developers have more flexibility when creating taste profiles. “But, whatever the approach, the end product must be tasty, attractive and meet consumer expectations.”

Major progress

One of the company’s most iconic products, found in almost every household, is Heinz Tomato Ketchup: “Its salt levels are over 40% less than 30 years ago, yet it retains its signature taste”, the product developer illustrates. Over the same period, salt levels in Heinz Kraft’s iconic beans and soups decreased by 50-60%. “We also significantly reduced salt levels in 35 mixes of our Honig portfolio – the Netherlands number one brand for soups, sauces and pastas – by on average 13% compared to 2014.”

Salt reduction is not easy, the Product Development Manager acknowledges: “Establishing the perfect taste profile is just one part of the game; stability issues are equally challenging.” Adding just one taste-enhancing component to the product formula could lead to unwanted changes in mouth feel or a completely different taste experience, due to interactions with other ingredients and different effects on taste buds.

A matter of experimenting

Heinz’ approach to such complex issues is continuous, close collaboration with ingredient suppliers and specialized research institutes. The company also uses experienced consumer expert panels, who are able to describe, in detail, what elements are missing in a reformulated product. “Once we collect this data we begin experimenting with different formulations”, says Burgers.

According to the product development manager, what they have learned, over the last 30 years, is that there is no one solution. “What works for one aspect of salt reduction does not necessarily work for another”. And what is right for ketchup might not work for tomato soup, even though both are tomato-based products.”

No added salt

Kraft Heinz believe there are still many opportunities for further salt reduction. “Our dream is to develop no added-salt concepts for our ketchup, beans and soups”, says Burgers.

Technology will not be a limiting factor, but some competitors stay behind, an issue that could negatively impact Kraft Heinz’ progress: “Salt levels for some competing products have levels that we already reached ten years ago”, says Burgers. “Further reductions will only be possible as consumers gradually get used to a less-salty taste; this can only happen if we all, supplier, manufacturer and retailer, make these steps and invest in collaborative R&D; learning and sharing with each other.”

The Kraft Heinz Company

 

Food Valley Summit: Reformulation Salt Reduction

Innovation insights and new developments. Sharing opportunities, challenges and market experiences. Meet the Kraft Heinz Company during the Food Valley Summit on 8 June 2017 in the Netherlands.  More information