Blog: Dean BestHeinz recipe change browns off HP Sauce lovers

Dean Best | 12 September 2011

HJ Heinz is facing anger in the UK for its decision to lower the amount of salt in its HP Sauce. However, amid the criticism, the US food company deserves some sympathy.

In November, Heinz cut the added salt in the HP Sauce on sale in the UK, in line with similar moves it had made on other products in a number of markets around the world. Of course, food manufacturers, facing government and consumer concern about the link between salt and cardiovascular disease, have been lowering salt across a range of products. Heinz should be applauded for continuing its work to reformulate its products.

However, it is equally obvious that one consequence of cutting salt is the impact on taste. Consumers are quick to complain if the taste of their 'much-loved' brands have changed. With social media booming, those complaints grow louder, quickly.

But, given Heinz changed the recipe in November, what has led to what the UK media has called the "online fury" against the company?

According to reports over the weekend and today, comments from celebrity chef Marco Pierre White (apparently, he has labelled the salt-lite HP sauce "disgusting") has prompted complaints across the Web.

"Leave HP sauce alone! It's worked perfectly fine for years & years. Nanny state." said one Twitter user, summing up a somewhat over-the-top reaction across social media networks.

Heinz insisted the change had been made to meet voluntary government targets and consumer demand.

"In line with changes in consumer tastes, we have long been committed to reducing added salt in recipes to meet voluntary targets with support from consumer health campaigners. This very minor change to our famous recipe was made in November last year, and rigorous consumer tests confirmed there was no significant difference in flavour between the old and new recipes," the company said. "HP Sauce still tastes great."

Food manufacturers have long faced criticism for the levels of salt, sugar and fat in their products. Now, a grumble from a high-profile chef - and some frenzied online comment later - has left Heinz facing some unfair criticism of a different kind. Damned if you do and damned if you don't.


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