Major supplier Besana believes new health legislation will strengthen the category and wants to be part of ‘mindshift change’ in food industry

New restrictions around the promotion of HFSS products in Britain are a “genuinely exciting opportunity” for producers of healthy snacks such as nuts and dried fruit, according to leading supplier Besana UK.

Legislation coming into force in Britain on 1 October will place retail restrictions on the promotion and placement of certain foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar (known as HFSS products).

Under the new rules, restrictions will apply to placing products deemed ‘less healthy’ at store aisle ends and checkouts, as well as their online equivalents.

In addition, price restrictions will prohibit retailers from offering promotions such as ‘buy one, get one free’ or ‘three for two’ offers on HFSS products.

Besana, an Italian supplier with a UK base in Ipswich, expects the legislation will not only strengthen the nuts and dried fruit category but also encourage food manufacturers in other sectors to incorporate healthier ingredients, such as nuts, in their recipes.

‘Mindset change’

“HFSS is good news for us as a business,” said Besana UK’s sales director David McCormick. “The general perception of nuts and dried fruit is that they’re full of fat and full of sugar, and yes, they are, but they contain the right fats and the right sugars.

“We have a naturally healthy product, and we are seeing the new legislation as a genuinely exciting opportunity – not just for our business but for how we promote the wider category with our customers.

“We want to be part of a mindset change in the food industry. People think much more about what they eat now, and nuts and dried fruit form an important part of that. We want to start being a huge part of developing the HFSS and healthy message to the consumer.”

New recipes

Besana, which is part of the international food and beverage group Importaco, based in Spain, stressed that many of its products are already in line with HFSS limits, but revealed it is working on reduced salt and sugar recipes in each of its assortments.

McCormick said Besana is weeks away from launching seven new healthy snacks for the UK market, as well as two in Belgium, all of which will be compliant with the UK Department of Health’s ‘Nutrient Profiling Technical Guidance’ – used to calculate a score for now nutritious a product is.

“Our position in the market is from a natural perspective, but we’re also set up to satisfy the indulgent side of things,” he said. “With our more indulgent products, such as caramelised nuts, it’s about how we can reduce the sugar content. There are certain products in which we’re reducing the sugar content by 50%.”

Healthy processes

Besana said there are a number of production processes that can be used to enhance the flavour of its nuts and dried fruit without adding too much salt or sugar. It has used some of these for many years and others are being adopted for the first time, to fall in line with the new HFSS legislation.

In terms of Besana’s well-established processes, salt can be replaced with spices (such as paprika, pepper or chilli) or natural extracts (such as truffle or citrus) without the addition of chemical additives or artificial flavours.

Meanwhile, in sweet products caramelisation allows Besana to create nut coatings that are lower in sugar, in some cases by up to 50%.

When it comes to Besana’s new techniques, air roasting makes nuts crunchier without the need to add fats, and nuts can be oil roasted rather than fried to reduce fats in the final product. There is no significant change to the taste, according to Besana.

In addition, nuts can be smoked using cherry or beech wood to give them a smoky flavour without the need for additives.

Christmas R&D

Besana’s busy R&D team in Italy specialises in products to be eaten during festivals, from Ramadan to Easter to Chinese New Year. Ahead of Christmas this year, the company is preparing launches that incorporate traditional festive flavours such as mint, orange and cinnamon.

Besana has also developed a line of nuts coated with different varieties of chilli; a sweet and spicy nut product with hints of maple and rosemary hints; and nuts coated with a vegan-friendly dragée polish.

Exclusive lines are being developed with Italian DOP cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino. And Besana’s R&D team is developing alcoholic dried fruit products soaked in brandy and kirsch.