Sydney McHugh, communications director for the Sunny Delight Beverage Company, told BeverageDaily.com that a UK-specific Parents Advisory Group (PAG), used by the company to inform its policy on issues like brand reformulation, could be seen across its other international markets ahead of future product launches.
The PAG consists of seven mothers from across the UK that the company insists have been ‘integral’ in informing reformulation in the country.
Amidst continuing crackdowns on the use of certain flavours and colours in soft drinks following widely publicised research, manufacturers of fruit-based beverage products like Sunny Delight continue to work on product formulation.
From last month, the beverage group says it has re-launched it brands at a number of leading retailers across the UK with claims that the drinks now contain 70 per cent fruit juice and have no added sugar, or artificial sweeteners.
McHugh claims that following consultations with the company’s UK PAG, which was formed back into 2005 to provide insight and suggestions relating to product development, Sunny Delight products sold in the country are now better placed to provide nutritious alternatives to rival brands.
“Most of our brands are vitamin-fortified, and are positioned as a healthier alternative to other beverages,” states McHugh. “We are constantly searching for new and exciting beverages and beverage flavours, as well as ways to improve the nutritional profile of our products.”
The strategy itself is seen as part of wider global developments by the company to reformulate its products towards providing cleaner labels and nutrition benefits , with further initiatives expected in markets like the US this year.
In 2008, McHugh says the company worked across its US operations to cut sugar use in all its brands by 25 per cent.
“We also recently announced the introduction of SunnyD Smoothies, which have all the calcium and vitamin D of an 8-ounce serving of milk,” he states. “We are in the process of introducing Fruit20 Essentials, placing us in the vitamin-fortified, flavoured water category.”
The commitments of soft drinks groups to reformulate their products, particularly in terms of additive use has been a major issue for the industry since the publication of findings conducted by researchers from Southampton University in England, back in 2007.
Although the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) last year released a response to the Southampton study (McCann et al, 2007) not calling for mandatory reformulation, soft drinks and snack makers claim to have been working to modify formulations nonetheless, due to potential links to hyperactivity in children.
The Southampton colours have nonetheless attracted considerable attention from MEPs, who voted in July for products containing the colours to be labelled "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children".
Some industry commentators have called the labelling, which will be mandatory in 18 months, a de facto ban since no marketer would use such wording on products for children.
At the end of last year, UK ministers backed a voluntary ban proposed by the FSA to phase out Tartrazine (E102), Quinoline Yellow (E104), Sunset Yellow (E110), Carmoisine (E122), Ponceau 4R (E124) and Allura Red (E129) from food products by 2009, in parallel with action at an EU level.