Launched in April 2019, the Sugar Calculator has been accessed around 6,000 times in the first month.
Consumers enter the amount of sugar in grams in one portion, and the tool translates this into a percentage of the recommended daily intake (based on 90 g per day).
It can be used for processed products and home-cooked recipes.
For a product that contains 33 g of sugar, the calculator gives this advice: “You can consume this food as part of a healthy diet in a good way, but it is important that you know how to make good choices throughout the day to maintain balance and not exceed the recommendation.”
The calculator, which is currently available in Portuguese only, is one of the initiatives of Nestlé’s Vidas Mais Saudáveis (Healthier Lives) program, which brings together articles, videos and infographics on nutrition.
“The intention of the calculator is not to make a complete nutritional analysis, but to point out to the consumer how much sugar consumed in a product or recipe represents the total daily recommendation,” the nutrition manager at Nestlé Brazil, Juliana Lofrese, told FoodNavigator-LATAM.
Lofrese said she believed it would be effective in helping Brazilians make healthier food choices.
“The great functionality of the tool is to show how much of the daily sugar recommendation is already served with the food, recipe or product being ingested," she added.
“[Vidas Mais Saudáveis] aims to inform and empower the consumer so that they have critical insight and make more conscious choices”, Lofrese said.
Vidas Mais Saudáveis also includes a Sodium Calculator, which launched last year.
Added versus total sugars
The calculations are based on the reference intakes of the UK’s food manufacturing trade association, Food and Drink Federation (FDF), and not Brazilian dietary recommendations.
According to Lofrese, this is because the FDF’s recommendations are “more specific” and distinguish between added sugars, which are added during the manufacturing process for taste or texture, and free sugars, which naturally occur in the raw material (such as lactose in milk or fructose in fruit.)
“The tool allows two ways of calculating the percentage of sugar contained in a given item and its relation to the daily recommendation: in preparations (recipes) or by the amount of sugar in an industrialized product.
“In the first case, there is the recommendation of the World Health Organization, whose reference is based on free sugar (which is used for recipe preparation). In the case of industrialized products, in Brazil the legislation allows the total sugars – not specifically those added – to be declared.
"The recommendation of the British Federation are more specific and are the only ones that [give guidance] with regard to the amount of added sugars,” she added.
The Swiss company says it has reduced more than 14,000 tonnes of sugar from its products in the past five years and has committed to removing a further 5% by 2020.
Investing in R&D have allowed it to achieve some of these reductions, for instance, through its ‘hollow sugar’ for confectionery.