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Nestle India on path to cut sugar content in chocolates

Viveat Susan Pinto/Mumbai 14 Sep 17 | 01:07 AM

A bird flies past the logo at the headquarters of world food giant Nestle

Nestlé India has relaunched its chocolate brand Milkybar, reducing sugar content by 10 per cent and increasing milk content by 8 per cent. This is the first time a chocolate manufacturer in India has decided to cut sugar levels by increasing the amount of wholesome ingredients, such as milk, in its products.

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The announcement comes at a time global majors such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have committed to cut salt and sugar in their brands, fuelled by the need for healthier products among consumers.

The Milkybar relaunch is expected to be followed by more such initiatives, according to Nikhil Chand, general manager (chocolates and confectionery), Nestlé India. Sources say this will likely include less sweeter KitKat and Munch bars, the other two key brands in the company’s chocolate and confectionery portfolio in the country.

“This is the start of our journey on reducing sugar content in chocolates and confectionery, and increasing wholesome ingredients in them. We are evaluating our entire portfolio to see where and how we can take this forward," Chand said.

Sugar reduction in chocolates is achieved with the help of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame or sucralose. But this affects taste, prompting players to restrict the effort to a few variants, experts said.

Nestlé India, explains Chand, was keen to avoid compromising on the taste and wanted the product to be healthier at the same time. “The effort on Milkybar was a result of a collaboration between Nestlé’s global and local (India) research and development wings."

In recent months, Nestlé India has fortified Maggi as well as brands such as Milo (health drink) and Ceregrow (infant food product) with micro-nutrients, in line with its global guidelines on health and wellness. Nestlé SA, Nestlé India’s parent company, had earlier this year indicated that it was reducing salt and sodium in Maggi noodles, cutting sugar in chocolates and confectionery and coming out with low-sodium and low-sugar variants in dairy and infant nutrition. 

“In 2016, we (Nestlé India) launched over 40 new products, of which half of them were in chocolates and confectionery. The trend in the category is increasingly moving to light eating and we would like to capitalise on it," Chand said.

Almost 13 per cent of Nestlé India’s sales came from chocolates and confectionery in the first half of calendar year 2017, a marginal increase over the year-ago period when it contributed 12.8 per cent. It follows a January-December accounting year.

According to analysts, chocolates and confectionery is Nestlé India’s third-largest category after milk products and nutrition and prepared dishes and cooking aids. In the first half of calendar year 2017, milk products and nutrition, which includes infant nutrition and dairy products, contributed 48.5 per cent to its sales, while prepared dishes and cooking aids, which includes the Maggi portfolio, contributed 27.6 per cent.

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