Reformulation can benefit the food industry, enabling companies to reduce costs and target new consumer demands, the OECD has argued.
A report by the OECD on obesity said such efforts would lead to manufacturers “attracting people from the health-conscious segment of the market” and suggested gradual reformulations be adopted to preserve sales with consumers “more likely to adjust to a new taste over time”.
Consumers in the 36 countries that are part of the OECD would live longer if reformulation took place – an additional 2.9 months per person on average between 2020 and 2050, the organisation argued.
The report recognised that its reformulation model was, however, based on the assumption that consumers faced with a change in recipe for a familiar food item would not buy and consume more to make up the lost calories, or switch to a rival brand that had not reformulated.
Nevertheless, the report said reformulation, improving food nutrient labelling or regulating advertising of unhealthy foods to children can generate major healthcare savings.
Every US dollar equivalent invested in preventing obesity would generate economic returns of up to US$6, according to the report. If OECD member government policies reduced the calorie content in energy-dense food, such as crisps and confectionery, by 20%, more than one million cases of chronic disease per year in these largely developed countries could be avoided, the report claimed.
That would help boost economic performance, the OECD suggested. Reformulation could boost the economies of the 36 OECD member countries by 0.51% GDP annually, creating growth equal to the economy of Chile every year.