Attended by companies large and small from across the UK including the fabulous Rochdale based LoDough and Cheltenham based Fitbakes, the event was the chance to network among like minded people whose aim is to reduce the amount of sugar in the foods we eat. Additionally it was a chance to look at the issues surrounding the labelling of low/no sugar products and how to change the consumers attitude to reduced sugar products.
When you, the consumer, see the label “reduced sugar” or “no added sugar” do you think – “I wonder what they have used instead?” Your thoughts may turn to artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin or a whole host of other products because, let’s face it, some products really do taste rank when sugar is removed. Some producers are getting very clever in how they present their products to the consumer, calling sugar by sometimes very technical names. Now, I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to getting the Nowt Poncy® Brand ‘out there’ and decided to get our Nowt Poncy® Arrabbiata Sauce right into the eye line of Chairman the Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP and strategically placed in right in front of him. Anyway, as the first speaker is addressing us I notice he’s taking a look at the other products in front of him and he picks up the NP sauce. Result I thought.
Anyway, a few minutes later he’s introducing a speaker who is an expert in EU labelling requirements and he starts saying how fed up he is with misleading claims and poor labelling. “Take this jar of Nowt Poncy® Sauce” says he and starts to read our nutritionals.
There is an audible gasp from me and Team LoDough behind because this could go one of two ways and the hall held it’s breath. My blood pressure shot up and my heart started pounding away but after a couple of seconds Mr Vaz, with a growing grin says “actually, these are not bad at all” and then “these are very clear and very good” (or something like that – I had difficulty hearing as my heart was beating out of my chest and my body was going into reptilian survival mode) and it was when he looked at me and grinned that I knew all the hard work and upfront due diligence had been worth it. Validation that our sugar claims and nutritionals were as described.
The single thread running through the event was EDUCATION. WE the producers need to find a way to educate the consumer instead of enforcement. Unfortunately for us small producers however, the costs involved are astronomical and we cannot compete in any way financially with the huge marketing budgets and sales teams of the conglomerates peddling their high sugar/high salt/high preservative rubbish. We also need to educate the supermarkets and supermarket buyers about Sugarwise and what they and we are trying to do. We need you to ASK for Sugarwise accredited brands when you shop and to give us small producers a try. We know cost is a huge issue but we use high quality fresh ingredients instead of manky cheap stuff so our sauces taste home made, and that I’m afraid is expensive.
Now, I’ve seen the Palace of Westminster on the telly thousands of times and watched interviews and broadcasts of inside and outside. Watching the dreadful terrorist attack and the rise and fall of Prime Ministers and MP’s. Nothing therefore could have prepared me for actually walking into and through those corridors of power to the committee room. At one stage I walked into a circular area and on my left was the entrance to The House of Commons and to my right the entrance to the House of Lords. At this point I had to sit and take 5 minutes to actually take in where I was and why I was there. I was walking past statues and busts of ancient names, PM’s of the past and portraits of Cromwell, and Kings and Queens of this amazing Country. If the EVER get the opportunity to visit – It’s an absolute MUST. Security is tight but typically British in its polite and highly professional way and I’d like to thank those incredible officers for all they do in such difficult circumstances.