We’ve set out the challenges we faced in achieving our ambitious Unilever Sustainable Living Plan nutrition goals over 2010–2020. See Downloads for an accessible version.
Reducing salt, sugar and calories
Average read time: 13 minutes
We’re cutting salt, sugar and calories from our products but keeping their great taste.
A worldwide obesity challenge
Many people realise that what they eat influences their health, their mood, and how much they can get done each day. In fact, there’s never been more interest among consumers in nutrition and health.
2 billion Adults worldwide are overweight or obese
Despite this, according to the, 2 billion adults are overweight or obese, and 41 million children are overweight. The obesity pandemic needs urgent attention and a change of the food system to address this. Food manufacturers clearly need to further drive down salt, sugar, saturated fat and calories, which is one part of this complex puzzle. Tackling this issue needs a multifaceted approach, with many stakeholders playing a role.
Healthier products must be part of the solution
We know that many people need to eat less salt, saturated and trans fats, and sugar. And we agree with dietary guidance that a balanced, healthy diet can contain occasional treats, such as an ice cream. As a global player in the foods industry with sizeable Nutrition and Ice Cream businesses, we have a responsibility to increase the nutritional quality of our products.
We launched our Global Nutrition Policy back in 2000 and since then we have been working to limit certain nutrients in our products, such as salt and sugar. A few years later, we launched the first nutrient profiling model to help with product innovation and reformulation, as well as portfolio improvement.
Over the years, we’ve learnt that to maximise our impact, we need to focus on products that are consumed most frequently and in the greatest volumes. We’ve also learnt that taste is crucial if consumers are to accept these changes.
Small improvements can bring a big health impact
Our nutrition agenda was part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) which started in 2010. Our Nutrition Journey shows how we progressed and by the end of 2020, achieving our targets meant we had removed 37 million tonnes of salt from our foods, the equivalent of around 170 billion sugar cubes from our ice tea drinks, and over 15,000 tonnes of sugar from our ice creams.
We’re now continuing our ambition on meeting our nutrition standards as part of the Unilever Compass.
70% of our portfolio to meet WHO-aligned nutritional standards by 2022.This is one of our Positive nutrition goals
Many of our products now meet our nutritional standards and we have succeeded in taking consumers on the journey, including with some of our biggest brands. In 2022, Hellmann’s introduced a range of spicy mayo in Europe, the US and Canada, which are all compliant with these standards. And, in the UK, our HNS-compliant Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise was named Best Family Favourite in the Sainsbury’s Magazine Food and Drink Awards 2023. In Mexico, Hellmann’s also introduced Liviana mayo, made with canola oil and the goodness of avocado. As well as being HNS compliant, the products don’t need to display any of the locally mandated nutrition warning labels.
As a result of our efforts, currently, 64% of our products meet our HNS, while 82% of our portfolio helps consumers reduce their salt intake to no more than 5 g per day. This is a significant increase compared with the end of 2020, when we committed to this ambition. Supply chain challenges during the pandemic, meant we focused on maintaining production of our existing portfolio. This issue has also been compounded by raw material shortages connected with climate change and the war in Ukraine, meaning that we have not been able to innovate and reformulate our products at the pace or scale we had planned.
Our Future Food commitments cover our worldwide Nutrition and Ice Cream businesses. As well as reporting our global results, we’ve tracked our progress across key countries.
More taste, less salt
The WHO recommends a daily intake of no more than 5 g of salt (that’s just under a teaspoon). But around the world, people eat on average 9–12 g a day, roughly twice the recommended amount.
85% of our Foods portfolio to help consumers reduce their salt intake to no more than 5 g per day by 2022.This is one of our Positive nutrition goals
We support the WHO’s recommendation and have clearly set out . By 2022, 82% of our Foods met salt levels that enable intakes of 5 g per day. During the pandemic, supply chain challenges meant we focused on maintaining production of our existing portfolio. This issue has also been compounded by raw material shortages connected with climate change and the war in Ukraine, meaning that we have not been able to innovate and reformulate our products at the pace or scale we had planned.
How do we reduce salt?
25% less salt in Knorr Pork bouillon cube in Thailand.
We improve our foods based on and reduce salt levels in a variety of ways. For instance, we replace salt with other ingredients, such as aromas, spices, herbs, and the natural salt replacer, potassium salt.
New products must meet the target to enable a salt intake of 5 g per day, and we aim to reduce salt when our existing products are reformulated. In 2022, for example, we reformulated Knorr Block Noodles in Pakistan, reducing salt by between 15% and 26% so that they’re now all HNS compliant.
Cutting calories in ice cream
Treats contribute to wellbeing and pleasure, which we believe are important in life.
We are a global leader in the ice cream market, delighting consumers in over 60 countries through our iconic brands such as , , , Max/Paddle Pop and – we know how important it is to lower calories without sacrificing taste, and we’ve set ourselves a goal to achieve this.
95% of packaged ice cream to contain no more than 250 kcal per serving by 2025.This is one of our Positive nutrition goals
In 2022, we introduced new options that not only hit the spot when it comes to refreshing ice cream, but were also designed to meet our ice cream calories and sugar commitments. For example, the majestic Kwality/Wall’s Royal Kulfi in India, offers a creamy modern twist to a traditional nutty Kulfi. And in Brazil, we launched new varieties of Cornetto – the Unicornetto (bringing a magical combination of creaminess, crunch and colour), the Cornetto Torcida with cookie and cream flavours (especially designed for football fans), and the ChocoBrownie Cornetto Spotify (uniting the two passions of Brazilians: ice cream and music).
We also introduced Cornetto Love Rose, which marries the brand’s signature crunchy cone with an instagrammable crown in the shape of a rose. It’s available in strawberry cheesecake and peach flavours, and wherever possible has a paper lid to protect the rose, instead of a plastic one. Cornetto Rose is currently available in Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, the EU and China.
A refreshing sweet treat, with less sugar
95% of packaged ice cream to contain no more than 22 g total sugar per serving by 2025.This is one of our Positive nutrition goals
We’re already reworking some of our most-loved recipes to reach our goal, and at the end of 2022, 89% of our packaged ice creams met our sugar commitment. Over the past year, in Europe for instance, we’ve reformulated Magnum White to contain no more than 22 g of total sugar.
Our new launches are also meeting our sugar commitment. Solero Green Apple in Israel, and Algida Keyif Pistachio Vanilla in Turkey, for example, both comply, as does the popular Viennetta Birthday Cake, which is available in the UK, Australia, Austria and Ireland.
Mini and mighty!
Our range of mini ice creams are also playing an important role in helping people manage their sugar (and calorie) intake.
We launched the first Cornetto Miniature back in 2001, and Magnum Mini followed in 2009. Recently, other brands have started to offer mini and bite-size ice creams as well, like Wall’s Mini Bites and Ben & Jerry’s Non-Dairy Mini Cups.
In 2022, Magnum stepped up once more with the launch of Mini Magnum Intense Dark in Israel and Australia, Mini Magnum Classic, Almond and Zero Sugar in Mexico, and Magnum Mini Cups in China. And in Europe, the delectable Magnum Mini Double Caramel Collection combines mini versions of Magnum Double Caramel Almond and Magnum Gold Caramel Billionaire in the same pack.
We’ve seen demand for our smaller-sized ice cream products increase – in fact, minis are one of the fastest-growing segments within ice creams. Our brands continue to invest and expand the choice of these options – but not their size.
Different levels of sweet tooth
The WHO advises limiting free sugar (meaning any added sugar, as well as natural sugars in honey, syrups and fruit juices) to below 10% of total energy intake. We support the WHO’s position. By 2025, 80% of our global beverages portfolio will contain no more than 5 g per 100 ml of total sugar, as explained in . By the end of 2022, 75% of these products met the target. We’re achieving this through a combination of using naturally sweet ingredients like fruit, as well as low-energy sweeteners, to fully or partially replace sugar. We offer great-tasting products with less sugar and varying levels of sweetness.
We’re giving people a choice in the level of sweetness of our ready-to-drink tea, powdered ice tea, milk tea products and other beverage products. Following the sale of part of our tea business in November 2021, we are now focusing on our remaining tea portfolio, with an offering that ranges from affordable loose tea to premium and speciality teas.
In India, for instance, Lipton SipNDigest leaf tea is made from natural green tea and real ingredients like ginger, tulsi and rock salt to ease digestion – it’s full of flavour and has no sugar. Brooke Bond Red Label Maa Care is a decaf tea, without added sugar and a delicious alternative for pregnant and lactating women. And Red Label Spice Tea is a premix of milk, tea and a limited amount of sugar, giving you the same tasty tea every time you make it, with the goodness of ginger, tulsi and cardamom.
Also in India, we’ve renovated our entire Horlicks Plus range, including Horlicks Protein Plus, with no added sugar.
The Pepsi-Lipton ready-to-drink tea joint venture has expanded distribution of its ready-to-drink products while reducing sugar in a range of its ice teas, such as our Pure Leaf Subtly Sweet lower sugar range, in original, lemon and peach flavours. The range contains 85% less sugar than the brand’s Sweet Tea offering.
We’re also creating new products with no added sugar. In Canada, for example, we introduced Brisk Zero Lemon, and in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, we launched Lipton Zero in tangy lemon and red fruit flavours. We offer Lipton Zero Lemon in Malaysia and Thailand, as well as Lipton Zero Peach in Spain.
Savoury can also be sweet
Most of the sugar in our savoury food products occurs naturally from vegetables like tomatoes and carrots. However, we’re working where we can to lower sugar in our foods too.
Great taste, less sugar
And our ketchup with Stevia contains up to 45% less sugar and meets our HNS. We’re making it available in an increasing number of countries in Europe. In Chile, we offer Hellmann’s Ketchup Light with 60% less sugar, making it HNS compliant while keeping its appealing flavour.
We’ve also reduced the amount of added sugar in our range of bouillons and soups, such as our Unox soups.
Our trans fats story
Unilever has always taken a leading role in reducing dietary intake levels of trans fatty acids (TFA), which are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. We were the first manufacturer to produce margarines virtually free of TFA, a move widely commended by the scientific and business communities.
Starting in the mid-1990s, we developed the science to create fat-containing products with the same mouthfeel, product stability and cost level but without the TFA. Since then, we’ve reformulated thousands of our recipes.
By 2012, we had removed trans fats from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO) across our portfolio to less than 1 g per 100 g of product. To promote transparency, we published our to this and committed to the programme to share our technical knowledge.
In May 2019, we made a global commitment to the World Health Organization that by 2023, industrially produced Trans Fatty Acids (iTFA) would not exceed 2 g per 100 g of total fat or oil in any of our foods. To fulfil this commitment means working closely with our suppliers. Alongside sharpening our specifications for iTFA, we’ve found alternative ingredients that meet the WHO threshold to use in our product reformulations.
We’re also continuing to cut saturated fat in our products in line with our Highest Nutrition Standards.
Read more about how we’re helping people to incorporate responsible treats into a healthy diet.
We’re tackling ‘portion distortion’
Helping people understand what an appropriate portion size looks like is crucial to maintaining a healthy diet. We know that portions are getting bigger and as a result, people are eating more. ‘Portion distortion’ is unfortunately becoming the norm.
We ensure that our marketing and point-of-sale communications encourage appropriate portion sizes for the setting portrayed and the intended consumers.
We’re also collaborating with industry, policymakers, public health groups and academic researchers to co-create consumer awareness messaging on how to balance portions as part of a healthy lifestyle. And we’re sponsors of the , which is focused on increasing understanding of the role of portions in day-to-day lives. The coalition is responding to the increasing number of food-insecure households with a culturally relevant health education programme called .