by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Food products

Nov 30 2023

FoodNavigator–Asia on product reformulation

FoodNavigator–Asia, a newsletter I subscribe to, publishes articles on reformulation and has now collected them in one place.

Reformulation is what happens when companies change the mix of food product ingredients to make them healthier—or at least to appear healthier-.  This is a highly effective sales strategy.

But reformulation raises philosophical questions:

  • Is a slightly better-for-you food product necessarily a good choice?
  • Does reformulation convert an unhealthy ultra-processed food product into a healthy one?
  • Is a food product with a gram or two less of sugar or salt likely to make any difference to your health?

Never mind.  Here’s what food companies are doing these days, at least in Asia.

Special Edition: Reformulation: Sugar, Salts, Fats and Oils

Governments across the region are continuing to enforce policies to reduce sugar, salts, fats, and certain oils. In this special edition, we’ll showcase the companies providing the most innovative solutions and brands at the forefront of this charge.

Sep 1 2022

Environmental impact of 57,000 food products!

If I wore a hat it would be off to the authors of this astonishing paper: “Estimating the environmental impacts of 57,000 food products.

They used public databases to rank food products by a combination of nutritional and four environmental factors: greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water stress, and eutrophication potential.

Their overall conclusion: more nutritious foods are more environmentally sustainable (whew), but with some caveats.

The paper has interesting illustrations.  Here’s one that correlates the nutritional value of sausages to their environmental impact.  Vegan sausages are the most nutritious and have the least environmental impact; beef sausages are least nutritious by the criteria used here and the greatest environmental impact.

We can argue about the criteria used to establish nutritional quality and environmental impact and the way the algorithm works, but what an ambitious project!

At the very least, it’s a useful starting point.

Lots of people are interested in the environmental implications of food production and consumption.  See the latest paper from the group at Deakin University in Australia: “A conceptual framework for understanding the environmental impacts of ultra-processed foods and implications for sustainable food systems.”

This review found that UPFs are responsible for significant diet-related environmental impacts. Included studies reported that UPFs accounted for between 17 and 39% of total diet-related energy use, 36–45% of total diet-related biodiversity loss, up to one-third of total diet-related greenhouse gas emissions, land use and food waste and up to one-quarter of total diet-related water-use among adults in a range of high-income countries.

What all of this says is that basic dietary advice to eat a largely (not necessarily exclusively) plant-based diet, balanced in calories. and avoiding much in the way of ultra-processed foods is not only best for health, but also for the environment.


Jan 19 2022

Annals of online marketing: organic, vegan frozen food

I saw this full page ad in the New York Times last week, and did not have a clue what it was for.

Politico Morning Ag to the rescue.

Daily Harvest, an up-and-coming plant-based frozen food maker that’s been valued at more than $1 billion, says it plans to engage on food issues in Washington.

The young company’s opening salvo? Projecting several large billboard-type images onto USDA’s headquarters in D.C. over the weekend, including one that read: “Big Food, Bite Me.” The projections accompany full-page ads in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

The ad worked.  I went right to the Daily Harvest website.

Daily Harvest is on a mission is to make it *really* easy to eat more fruits + vegetables every day. From seed to plate, we’re committed to a better food system, one that prioritizes human and planetary health. We are transforming what we eat, what we grow, and how we grow it — one crop (and box) at a time.

Oh.  They sell food products.

The website lists them in great detail.  The photos and descriptions make them look fresh and delicious (but they are frozen).

I looked up the Chickpea and Coconut Curry (“Tastes like Madras veggie curry”), 489 grams, 560 calories, $11.99.

organic chickpeas, water, organic cauliflower, organic sweet potato, organic spinach, green chickpeas, organic cashew butter, organic peppers, organic tomato paste, organic ginger puree, organic coconut cream, organic cilantro, organic garlic puree, himalayan sea salt, organic madras curry powder (organic turmeric, organic coriander, organic cumin, organic fenugreek, organic mustard seed, organic black pepper, organic ginger, organic cinnamon, organic chili pepper, organic allspice), organic lime juice, organic moringa leaf powder, organic onion powder, organic coriander seeds, organic black pepper, organic cinnamon, organic cloves.

Obviously, I haven’t been paying attention to what’s happening with online ordering.

Also obviously, I need to.

This company has been around for five years, and plenty has been written about it.

I wonder how the frozen meals taste?

I will have to order something and find out, not least because I intend to include a chapter on online ordering in the updated edition of What to Eat.  I’ve just started working on it, and can’t wait to get to this chapter!

Dec 9 2021

Some recent articles on food product reformulation

What with all the pressure to make foods healthier, food manufacturers have been tweaking their products to reduce less healthful ingredients, especially salt and sugar.

Reformulated ultra-processed foods are still ultra-processed.

They raise the question: is a slightly healthier ultra-processed food a good choice?

These articles come from, which tracks the food industry in that part of the world.