/ Food & Drink

Should you be informed of ingredient changes to your favourite products?

ingredients list

Kenco 2in1 coffee sachets recently had a somewhat unhealthy, but unadvertised ingredients change. So does it bother you when your favorite products change?

I like knowing what I’m eating. Not in a picky way – I’m often the first to dive into a tray of mystery sandwiches at a lunch meeting. I’m one of those people who stands for a full 5 minutes in a grocery aisle comparing two versions of a product I need, down to the last xanthan gum versus maltodextrin on the ingredients list.

Once I’ve thoroughly vetted my choices, I don’t do an ingredient scan on my next shopping trip. I figure, I know exactly what I’m buying. So that’s why it irritates me when these products change…

Product changes

Recently, Kenco made changes to their 2in1 smooth white coffee sachets. The coffee content decreased by 48%, and the sugar content increased by 168%.

The new nutritional information is on the product, but the change wasn’t clear or advertised.

Kenco told us the shift is due to a new ‘stronger’ and ‘higher quality’ coffee, and the reduced amount creates the ‘desired flavour profile’.  Alongside this, it said the calories, fat and saturated fat had been cut.

Of course adding or increasing ingredients in which sugar naturally occurs, like milk, to a product will increase the overall sugar content. Except it’s usually hard to see that breakdown on nutrition labels and leaves us wondering just how much added sugar we’re consuming.

It also leaves me wondering if the changed composition is to create the ‘bliss point’, the combination of sugar, salt, and sometimes fat that companies create in products to maximize our cravings or make us like a product best.

I know companies make changes to products. I find it’s easier to notice and accept a change when it’s accompanied by jazzy new packaging designs, or flashy banners saying things like, ‘Now even bolder!’. Prompts like this occasionally catch my eye and I’ll check to see what’s new.

For example, I’m picky with my peanut butter. If I see a new ‘natural’ peanut butter I check if it has added palm, or similar, oil. The phrasing might lead me to believe it’s the healthier option because it’s natural, but it still has added fat in a product that can be good without it.

Vague, buzzword infused descriptions seem to accompany product changes that have unclear changes. Conversely, it’s often obvious when companies roll out products with healthier nutritional changes. Lower sugar versions of products are heralded with specific detail, often displayed prominently and highlighting the change with a clear phrase like, ‘Now with 70% less sugar.’

The introduction of traffic light labelling has been a useful tool in helping to detangle actual nutritional information from the marketing hype. Thankfully, around two-thirds of products now carry this labelling system, but that means we’re still left ingredients scanning for the remaining third.

Informed choices

We place trust in the brands we buy faithfully, so it would be nice to know they value our conscious consumption rather than our uninformed loyalty.

But it should be an informed choice.  It’s difficult to feel in charge of your health if you’re not aware you’re picking out a product different to one you previously bought.

I’d like it if I didn’t have to worry about hidden ingredients each time I visit the supermarket, so that when I do up my sugar intake by that much, it’s because I’m consciously eating 168% more cake.

So, does it bother you when the ingredients change on your preferred products? Do you think it should be made clearer so that you can make an informed choice? Would you like to see all products carrying traffic light labelling?

Comments
Guest
BDonald says:
22 October 2016

Yes – changes should be highlighted. Both my husband and I have adverse reactions to gluten, thankfully not severe enough to be really ill.I had always happily used Campbells condensed soups as a shortcut in cooking as they did not contain gluten. I bought a Campbells soup from ASDA in a hurry so did not check the ingredients. Guess what – we both had a reaction, I checked the tin and the soup contained gluten. Whether this is an ASDA-specific occurrence or whether the recipe had changed I don’t know. I guess the answer for us is always check even if it is a tried and tested product; and I guess that someone who is coeliac and could be seriously affected by gluten appearing in something, always checks?

Guest

Yes, changes to ingredients should definitely be highlighted, preferably with new packaging but at least an obvious label on the front.

Waitrose is particularly bad at adding cream or butter to previously dairy-free products like ready meals or meat pies. Some years ago, my other half started choking while eating a Waitrose Thai Curry. A look at the packaging and they had decided to add cream to the product with no warning.

Because we can’t trust products to always be the same as the last time we bought them, we have to check the ingredients every time we buy them.

I also don’t like the current trend for allergies to be highlighted in bold print that is easy to miss if lighting is not good, print is small, background of writing is dark or there is a long list of ingredients. The packaging bothers to tell you to look for allergy ingredients in bold, so why not just list them? It might even take up less space.

Guest
whobiggs says:
22 October 2016

Labelling is terrible, I don’t mind eating crap as long a s it’s my choice and I know what I’m eating. It annoys me when they announce new lower fat etc as they increase the sugar to compensate. One of my favorites used to be Special K but it’s now too sweet. Another was Fruit and Fibre, they reduced the fruit content “by only 3%” but if there was only 30% fruit in the first place that is a massive difference.

Labelling needs to be more honest and open.

Guest
Michael P says:
23 October 2016

To look at it another way, 3% of 30% is 10%!

Guest
Michael P says:
23 October 2016

… I can’t resist pointing out that as far as bank rate is concerned, a cut from 1% to 0.5% can be viewed as halving, i.e. a 50% cut!!

Guest

I thought Whoblggs was saying it was a massive difference, Michael.

You are right to point out that we need to be careful when dealing with percentages. If mortgage interest rates go up by one percentage point that could be a 20% increase in their monthly payments for some.

Guest
Penny Rolfe says:
22 October 2016

Most definitely as in myself I have gastric reflux disease and certain ingredients can cause severe side effects such as aspirating gastric acid particularly at night!

Guest

Penny – there is treatment for your condition , are you on any GP prescribed anti- acid pills ? I have been on them all ( no longer ) as I had a major stomach operation early in life ( 22 ) where my stomach was “rearranged ” the exit was enlarged and acid producing nerves were cut into . Do you have Zollinger Ellison Syndrome I have been tested twice for that ?