Nestlé slashes sugar in Nesquik

Sugar from Shutterstock
Sugar from Shutterstock

Nestlé SA is cutting the added sugar in its Nesquik flavoured milk products in the US, the latest in a series of moves by the Swiss food company to reduce sugar and salt in its offerings amid growing public health concerns.

The overhauled Nesquik powders, to be launched this month, will contain 10.6 grams of sugar per two tablespoons, marking a 15% reduction in the chocolate version and a 27% cut in the strawberry flavour. The products will also no longer contain artificial colours or flavours.

Read: What’s SA’s most sugary drink?

Nesquik ready-to-drink beverages will also contain 10.6 grams of added sugar per eight-ounce serving, but 22 grams total due to lactose, a naturally occurring sugar. "Added sugars" are sugars and syrups added to foods when they are processed or prepared, as opposed to naturally occurring sugars.

Still, Nestlé's changes, similar to efforts at big food companies including General Mills Inc, fail to satisfy concerns of many health advocates.

"It's a nice step in the right direction, but it's not a huge victory for nutrition," said Michael Jacobson, executive director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group.

He still advises parents against giving their children Nesquik. "I would recommend water or skim milk or low-fat milk as something that is more appropriate to drink."

Read: Is milk actually bad for your health?

Nestlé says Nesquik can increase the amount of milk that children consume. "The general consensus is that flavoured milk is an appropriate product if it's consumed in responsible amounts," Rob Case, president of Nestlé's beverage division, said in an interview.

A Nestlé spokesperson said in an email that the added sugar in its modified powders amounts to about 43 calories per serving size. That is about a third of the recommended maximum added sugar intake for children aged 4 to 8, based on guidelines proposed by a US advisory health panel.

But a 2011 report by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity said that children of that age should consume just 15 grams of added sugar each day, or 60 calories, based on the American Heart Association's recommendation that added sugar should be limited to half of total empty calories consumed, which includes solid fats.

"If chocolate milk is the only sugar they consume in a day, this is positive," said Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center, now at the University of Connecticut.

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