Formulating for health & wellness : Stephen Herring of Brenntag Food & Nutrition discusses the opportunities & challenges

Dietary and healthy food themes. Table top view of fresh vegetables and legumes on rustic wooden table. Food is rich of fiber ideal for dieting and healthy eating. Includes corn, avocado, broccoli, orange fruit, grapes, bell pepper, lettuce, banana, apple  almonds and wholegrain pasta.

Consumer interest in a healthy lifestyle is growing, leading to increased demand for products associated with “wellbeing” and “healthy living”. Fat Reduction, Sugar Reduction / No Added Sugar, Salt Reduction, “Free From” and Clean Label are some of the key messages that are on the mind of health-driven cost savvy consumers.

Teenager eating healthy lunch with friends in school lunchroom

Public Health England (PHE) on 7th September 2020 published “Voluntary Calorie Reduction Guidelines” which form a pillar in the government’s drive against obesity as well as COVID 19. Calorie reduction is a crucial part of the food industry’s continuing efforts on providing healthier food and drink choices for consumers, and PHE recommends the following voluntary calorie reductions:

  • 20% calorie reduction for most meal categories in the eating out of home, takeaway and delivery sector, alongside a maximum calorie guideline for all categories
  • for children’s meal bundles, a 10% calorie reduction ambition has been set to reflect progress already made
  • 10% calorie reduction ambition for retailers making ready meals, chips and garlic bread, alongside a maximum calorie guideline for all categories
  • for crisps and savoury snacks, a 5% ambition
  • combined guidelines for both sectors have been set for sandwiches (5% ambition) and pizza and pastry products (20% ambition)[1]

These are also coupled with new voluntary salt reduction guidelines aimed at getting the current daily average from 8.4 g toward the target 6 g per day. These new guidelines further reinforce the need to find ingredients that allow manufacturers to meet the criteria and still deliver on texture, taste, flavour, appearance and shelf life which can be challenging. It may be that it is not a single ingredient but a combination that are required.

In respect to sugar reduction, whilst good progress has been made to date, manufacturers are looking at further strategies such as shrinkification – smaller portions/ same recipe, or reformulation and trying to move consumer purchasing towards the lower calorie versions.

We at Brenntag Food & Nutrition are committed to supporting the industry in driving the healthy eating agenda and have completed many projects specifically aimed at formulating for sugar reduction / sugar alternatives. For instance, chicory root fibre is an exciting ingredient which really aids the formulator on their objectives to achieve sugar reduction. In addition to a low glycaemic index (GI), chicory root fibre has a natural sweetness and less than half the calories of sugar, which means that it can be used to reduce the amount of processed sugar and fat needed within food products. It also enhances the taste and texture of foods, and with the new health claim approved, manufacturers now have a strengthened opportunity to encourage consumers to opt for healthier food and drinks. Desserts, cereals, beverages, ice creams and snacks are the categories with the biggest potential of capitalising on the new claim [2], but I believe the industry as a whole needs to – and no doubt will- continue efforts to educate consumers on the importance of the glycaemic response. This is the challenge Brenntag Food & Nutrition as a food ingredient distributor is excited to continue to be supporting the industry with.

In response to the demand for clean label alternatives to traditional preservatives such as potassium sorbate, our supplier Corbion have expanded the range of products under the Verdad brand name. These have been formulated for dressings, sauces, dips, chutneys & fruit preparations, and our teams at our UK based Food Application & Development Centre have conducted exciting projects formulating with Verdad (details available on request). The Verdad range comes as two types, those declared as vinegar which are aimed at preservation and those declared as natural flavour and vinegar which in addition to preservation give flavour enhancement when sodium levels are reduced. Also, from Corbion are the Pura Q Arome products, which are declared as natural flavour and give flavour enhancement in reduced sodium systems- again another range which we recommend for development of clean label for shelf life.

Studio shot of colorful fruit slushies in glasses

The UK market for meat free foods is experiencing exponential annual growth. Interest in vegetarian and vegan products shows no sign of slowing down, as retail sales are expected to increase to £658m by 2021 [3]. Another product range we work with or recommend to our customers is the Dupont Bind range of methyl cellulose products, which have been produced to meet the variety of vegan meat analogue products being demanded by the market. Bind 250, for instance, has been developed for hot eating products, whilst Bind 092 and Bind 112 developed to allow for cold eating as well as hot eating products. These products give functional properties which mirror egg albumin in terms of structure, moisture binding but no allergenic.

The global market size for the gluten free products is projected to grow at a CAGR 8.1% 2020- 2025, projected to reach USD 8.3 billion by 2025 [4]. For the Gluten Free bakery market, in particular the bread market, Dupont has the Wellence Gluten Free 321, which is designed to allow for leavening of the dough to obtain crumb structure and volume comparable to wheat bread.

Innovative food ingredients for recipes that appeal to all senses

Brenntag Food & Nutrition technologists have developed a wide range of recipes for the plant-based diets, focusing on nutritional benefits including sugar and salt reduction, calorie control and fibre/vitamin/protein enrichment. Just some of our vegan and vegetarian concepts are detailed below:


  • Chocolate Chip Muffins – Sugar reduction
  • Vegan Cake – Vegan & calorie control
  • No Added Sugar Cereal Bar – Sugar reduction
  • Vitamin Drink – Flavour boosting & high protein
  • Fibre Enriched Granola – Fibre enrichment


  • Vegan Quarter Pounder - Vegetarian to vegan
  • High Protein Soup Mix - High protein
  • Lentils and Chickpea Meatballs - Plant based
  • Vegetarian Sausages - Plant based