What can 5.000 researchers do for your food?

Imagine that you have a predisposition to Alzheimer’s. Imagine that you are 22 years old and that you can already see signs of the upcoming disease, that you will develop 40 years later. Imagine that this disease can be prevented if you start to change your diet and nutrition.

This is something that Nestlé’s 5.000 food researchers are working on. At Nestlé, which is the world’s largest food company, we believe – and heavily invest in – that nutrition and the right kinds of food can help preventing future diseases. If successful, it could positively change people’s lives. It can change the hospitals’ future. The costs for medicine can be reduced if there is an enhanced focus on prevention and ensuring that proper nutrition is a prerequisite and important part of a medical treatment.

It is not a wild future bet, when we allocate 12 billion DKK each year to food research. It is an investment: when billions of people buy processed food every single day, the food producers have significant influence – which ingredients do they use and have the products been produced sustainably? With great influence comes great responsibility. The food has to become (and needs to be) better and better all the time – we can continuously develop in both nutrition and in terms of taste. That is what the companies – including ourselves – must focus on.

We specialize in health and nutrition – and in cleaner and more sustainable production. Looking at the latter: Nescafé is produced at our factory in Switzerland in a huge filter coffee machine with coffee beans brewing the coffee, which afterwards freeze-dries and turns into Nescafé. Afterwards, we are technically able to use the coffee grounds for producing heat.

In nutrition and health, we research in a wide range of areas to improve Nestlé’s current and future products. The current products are being “renovated”, as it is called in our jargon. This means that we continuously reduce salt, sugar and fat in our products, while increasing the content of fiber, whole grain and other natural ingredients wherever possible. In 2015, we improved approximately 8,000 products this way.

Since nutrition, health and well-being are central parts of Nestlé’s business strategy, we will continue this work.

There are many obvious buttons to press in the research and development of food. In the Nordic countries, for example, we have had the breakfast product, Havre Cheerios, special developed and by this fitting it for both the Danish Whole Grain Logo and the Keyhole label. The interest for the product has been so massive that other Nestlé countries have chosen to launch the product. The sugar content of this product is reduced by 55% since 2008.

Another example is the Fitness breakfast product, where we reduced the content of salt, sugar and saturated fat by 22-28% in the period from 2005-2012, while the fiber and whole grain content was increased by 34% and 6,5%.

Less sugar is usually at the top of the list for food companies – and we are focusing on it as well: in 2015, we reduced the sugar content in our Nestlé products by 18.000 tonnes.

However, the good taste must follow – that is why we gradually improve the products.

Research can also reach very far at one single time: the recent breakthrough from Nestlé’s researchers will secure that there will be up to 40% less sugar in Nestlé chocolate – but without compromising the taste. With the use of natural ingredients, researchers have found a way to structure sugar differently, so that Nestlé can lower the total amount of sugar in our confectionery products by up to 40% while maintaining the familiar taste. The researchers have simply found a method so that the tongue receives the reduced sugar amount in an almost identical way as with the chocolate with the non-reduced sugar amount.

It will be possible to use this research and method from 2018.

Without investing so heavily in this area, we would not have been able to reach this far – and it does not stop here at all:

The focus should not only be on how the products can be improved, but also how they are improved. Nestlé operates after a zero waste principle, which is already integrated into three out of five factories in the Nordic region – and will be implemented at all Nestlé’s 500 factories worldwide by 2020.

In the future, we will see even more improvements in production methods, products and closer cooperation between private experts and the public sector to ensure a better future for all.