Arcor nutrition chief on its triple strategy for healthier food

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Rawpixel
© GettyImages/Rawpixel

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Arcor’s head of nutrition development tells us how it is making its products healthier, from reducing sugar with prebiotics and researching fat crystallization to applying nutrient thresholds and shrinking portion sizes.

Family-held Argentinian food firm Arcor is the world’s biggest manufacturer of hard sweets but its portfolio ranges from cooking oil to cookies, lemonade to pizza sauce.

In order to make its products healthier, the company has a global wellness strategy based on three lines of work, Florencia Canova, head of nutrition development, told FoodNavigator-LATAM. 

Firstly, it aims to improve the nutritional content of current products, by reducing the amount of salt, sugar, and saturated fats and adding in healthy and “positive​” ingredients. The company has its own maximum levels for certain nutrients, such as salt, sugar and saturated fat, according to its in-house Nutritional Profile System.

(However, apart from trans fatty acids, which are capped at 2% of the total fat content in any product, Arcor’s nutrient thresholds for sugar, saturated fat and sodium vary according to the category in question, said Canova, without specifying what these limits were.)

Secondly, it is expanding the size and reach of its better-for-you product portfolio. Part of this portfolio diversification comes through M&A; it now has a 43% stake in dairy company Mastellone Hermanos.

Thirdly, it is reducing the calorie content of products by making portion sizes smaller and increasing the number of products offered in individual packages.

Headquartered in Buenos Aires, Arcor is one of Argentina’s biggest food makers and also has a large global presence. Its products are made in 47 factories across Latin America and sold in over 120 countries worldwide.

In 2017, it posted EBITDA of ARS$4.78 billion. 

'Challenging work'

According to Canova, the company uses intense sweeteners and ‘structure substitutes’ such as polyols and soluble fibers to reduce sugar content.

One such example is its 0% sugar strawberry and peach jams, sweetened with sucralose and sorbitol, that took two years to develop.

The technological and organoleptic limitations make the reduction of sugars a very challenging work that we have tackled with multiple strategies […] including through innovation,” ​said Canova.

“Grupo Arcor developed IMO fiber, a syrup composed of isomaltooligosaccharides, which is a soluble fiber of low molecular weight that constitutes the first prebiotic manufactured in Argentina.”

Trans fats commitment

The company's 2% trans fat limit has been rolled out in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Mexico.

“[We] committed to this reduction long before the legislation in Latin America came into force,” ​said Canova.

The type of substitute it opted for depended on the application, according to Canova.

For products that require solid fats, it replaced partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHO) with cocoa butter, cocoa butter equivalents and cocoa butter substitutes that are "mainly interesterified​". For products that can take liquid oils, it has replaced PHOs with high oleic sunflower oil.

Meanwhile, it has cut saturated fat in 187 SKUs, equivalent to over three million kilos of saturated fat a year.

We have also achieved the challenge of reducing saturated fatty acids in products that require solid fats thanks to an important research work to achieve patterns of fat crystallization that allow sufficient rigidity with less amount of saturated fatty acids,” ​said Canova.

New sodium policy in 2021

Argentina has had maximum salt levels​ for certain food categories in place since 2014.

Arcor's salt reduction strategy looks at decreasing the amount of salt used without replacing it with other additives, Canova said, or by using additives that have a lower sodium content.

In products where sodium bicarbonate contributes significantly to the sodium content, for instance, it has replaced this with potassium bicarbonate.

The use of potassium chloride is quite restricted by its organoleptic limitations - we have used it in very specific cases,” ​she said. “We also have experience with other sodium substitutes provided by flavor specialists, but only in products where the reductions are very high and there is no other option.”

According to Canova, it has reduced sodium by between 18 and 47% in canned vegetables, legumes, and sauces, reducing salt in 190 SKUs across its portfolio.

As of 2021, a new version of [our in-house] sodium content policy with more demanding limits will come into effect,” ​she added. 

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