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Mondelēz: ‘We may revisit sugar reduction target’, if WHO formalizes guidance

Mondelēz sets 'uncommunicated' sugar limits on new products, but will only consider a sugar reduction pledge if WHO revises its guidance

Mondelēz International said it may include a pledge to reduce sugar in its new health & wellness program, but only if the World Health Organization (WHO) makes its latest sugar advice formal.

WHO recently said that it “would have additional benefits” to half a person’s recommended sugar intake to 5% of total calorie intake per day due to new research on obesity and dental carries. However, the current 10% guidance is still in place and consultations on a revised policy are ongoing.

Mondelēz last week launched its Call for Well-being program. It included pledges to reduce sodium and saturated fat 10% by 2020, but suggested reducing consumer sugar intake was manageable with portion controlled products and education.

Helping people with sugar consumption

“As nutrition research and dietary recommendations evolve, and when WHO finalizes its recommendations, we may revisit and decide if we need to include a sugar-reduction target,” said Michael Mitchell, senior director, corporate external communications at Mondelēz.

“We believe we can help people with reducing sugar consumption through our efforts to reduce calories and increase portion-control options,” he continued.

Mondelēz’s global health & wellness pledge made no commitment to reduce calories, but the firm has promised to increase individually wrapped options of 200 calories or less by 25% by 2020 and committed to front of pack calories labels on all products globally by 2016.

The company has pledged to cut calories in the UK as part of the national government’s Responsibility Deal, but this does not bind it to reformulate and it is free to explore other options such as more portion controlled products and promoting low calorie choices.

Calories and dental health

“When sugar is removed, it must be replaced with something else.  That replacement is usually another carbohydrate that has the same or similar amount of calories to sugar,” said Mitchell.

But the WHO’s latest advice was based only partly on calorie-related obesity concerns. An article in the Journal of Dental Research, which helped inform the WHO's proposal, found a reduced risk of dental caries when a person's sugar intake was 5% of calories a day rather than 10%.

Mondelēz: We have a limit for sugar in new products

“Our new product development guidelines set a limit for sugar content of any new products,” said Mitchell.

We asked for the limit, but were told: “It’s not a single number – but rather a category-specific nutrition profile for new products”. We then requested to see a copy of the new sugar guidelines, but Mondelēz responded: "Our new product development guidelines are competitively sensitive."

Analysts at Euromonitor International previously suggested that confectioners should keep quiet about sugar reduction for fear of irritating consumers.

One bar could exceed limits

The WHO’s latest 5% advice equates to around 25 g of sugar a day for an average sized adult.

Mondelēz’s single-serve Cadbury Dairy Milk bar in the UK contains 25.5 g of sugar and would mean an average adult has already exceeded WHO’s latest advice by eating one bar. 

The company said it had introduced many products with reduced sugar. For example, it said that it cut sugar in belVita biscuits from 26 g per 100 g serving to 24 g per 100 g serving in the last four years. It added that 90% of its gum portfolio was sugar free.

WHO’s latest sugar advice is open for consultation until 31 March and will be subject to a peer review process. The document – including instructions on how to comment – is available to download here.

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