Meeting the UK National Food Strategy for Nutrition

It is no secret that modern, commercialised food production methods have had disastrous consequences for our health and overall diet. With the cost of public care increasing and the need to adapt diets to accommodate changes in eating habits that will inevitably be brought about the need to combat climate change, the UK government has commissioned the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to map out the dietary changes required over the next decade[1].

According to existing UK government research, around 64,000 people in the UK die from poor diet ever year[2] – with more than 50% of over-45s suffering from diseases brought on by the effects of bad food choices[3].

HFSS legislation is due to be introduced in the UK in 2022[4] – giving producers and retailers time to make relevant alterations to product formulation to avoid needing to place visible warnings on food products.

The starkest, and most necessary reductions that should be made are around sugar and HFSS (foods high in Fat, Salt and Sugar). To meet the 25% reduction in HFSS foods, large-scale reformulation of baked goods and other confectionary will inevitably be required. The sugar tax levied some years ago has meant that sugar content is lower[5], but with a 50% reduction still needed to meet targets, there is some distance to go, and the replacement of sugar with alternative sources of sweetness – such as stevia – is likely to be in high demand from major manufacturers.

Outside of the HFSS requirements, the resultant National Food Strategy (NFS) cites the need to reduce sugar intake by 50%. Of the 14 recommendations made by the report, 11 are direct results of sugar-related issues. The widespread adoption of stevia in place of the traditional cane and beet sugars that currently dominate the UK market would allow manufacturers to meet the stringent new requirements with minimum impact to consumers.

With concern that Type 2 Diabetes is likely to cost the National Health Service around £15 billion per year[6] (around 150% of the current annual cancer bill), the UK government is looking to comprehensively transform the state of the national food market, changing public attitudes for the better.

This task will not be easy for producers and manufacturers who are currently in the business – especially those who work in the snack food and confectionary fields. Reformulation with sugar substitutes can be tricky to get right, and there is always the concern that consumers will not enjoy the reformulated products as much as the traditional recipes, particularly if foot texture is affected in the switch away from sugars.

When it comes to successfully executing a reformulation however, SWT Stevia is uniquely placed to help manufacturers and producers to meet the upcoming requirements by providing the sweetness profiles demanded by consumers at the same time as meeting the sugar reduction specifications demanded by UK authorities. With an embedded understanding that consumers are looking to make choices that affect their health without making choices that affect their enjoyment of food, SWT is able to help producers create the same traditional products, with improved formulation.

How a switch to stevia can help meet the first 7 recommendations of the UK National Food Strategy:


Recommendation 1

Introduce a Sugar and Salt Reformulation Tax. Use some of the revenue

to help get fresh fruit and vegetables to low-income families.

Recommendation 2

Introduce mandatory reporting for large food companies.

Recommendation 3

Launch a new “Eat and Learn” initiative for schools.

Recommendation 4

Extend eligibility for free school meals.

Recommendation 5

Fund the Holiday Activities and Food programme for the next three years.

Recommendation 6 

Expand the Healthy Start scheme.

Recommendation 7

Trial a “Community Eatwell” Programme, supporting those on low incomes to improve their diets.


As the first 7 recommendations involve government control, promotion, and regulation of food production – to ensure that healthy choices are made where possible – making the switch to stevia early can save producers a significant number of problems in the longer run.

With a focus on a new “Eat and Learn” project designed specifically to help young children to understand the benefits of a balanced diet, the promotion of stevia as a central part of a healthy yet delicious diet allows for a significant change in public attitudes towards the use of alternative sweeteners, which are still on the periphery of some key demographics.

The crux of the initial seven recommendations stems from the dual approach taken by the UK government. While there are heavy educational campaigns recommended as a key stone policy, these are also backed up by a call for transparency and monitoring.

The eligibility of free school meals in Recommendation 4 will be subject to the already stringent existing regulation[7], requiring providers to meet low-sugar and low-fat targets in order to be eligible to supply the food. With the aim to increase the number of school meals provided to pupils, there are major gains available for those companies who make the choice to adapt to the new reality of nutrition first.

Given the ever-increasing taxes on unhealthy food, coupled with the health ramifications of living unsustainably unhealthy lifestyles, the move to alternative sweeteners is, at this point, looking inevitable. For food producers, making the switch sooner rather than later is likely to yield positive results and should form the central pillar of any long-term manufacturing strategy.


[1] National Food Strategy. (2021) available at
[2] Global health data exchange. (2020). Global Burden of Disease, 2019 data. Available at:
[3] National Food Strategy analysis using data from: NHS Digital. (2020). Health Survey for England 2019: Adult’s health.
 Available at
[4] Promotions of unhealthy foods restricted from October 2022: Department of Health and Social Care (2021). Available at:
[5] Soft Drinks Industry Levy comes into effect: HM Treasury (2018). Available at:
[6] Hex, N. et al. (2012). Estimating the current and future costs of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in the UK, including direct health costs and indirect societal and productivity costs.
[7] School meals – Healthy eating standards.