Food democracy, the growing trend whereby consumers are flexing their muscles and influencing decisions made by big food retailers and producers, is finding a foothold in South Africa. As you might expect, the first big retailer to pay close attention to what customers are saying, is Woolworths. In fact, it’s in response to requests from customers that Woolworths has become the first South African retailer to remove aspartame from its foods. It’s not the only so-called ‘artificial’ sweetener to go, either. Woolworths has also removed the sweeteners saccharin and cyclamate from its own-brand foods. “Quite a number of our customers have expressed their concern about these sweeteners. They’ve let us know that they don’t want them in their food,” explains Woolworths Food Divisional Director Julian Novak. Novak also points out that the move is in keeping with Woolworths Good Food Journey. “Minimising the use of additives in our foods wherever possible is one of our goals,” he explains. “We started by not using MSG and tartrazine several year ago. Last year we also took the step of removing added sugar from our fruit nectars, also in response to concerns among customers. Not only is this is the next logical step — we’re very pleased to say that we’ve been able to do it without having any impact on price.” ENDS NOTES FOR THE EDITOR What is the Good Food Journey? The Good Food Journey is the name we’ve given to our ongoing quest to offer South Africa food that’s better for our customers, better for the environment and better for the people who produce it. It encompasses everything from not using additives like tartrazine and MSG from our foods, switching to more natural flavourants, and offering more organic and free range choices to caring for the welfare of animals and promoting healthy eating as part of a healthy lifestyle. Within the last 18 months Woolworths removed hydrogenated vegetable oils (HVOs) from its fresh prepared food and has removed over 35 tons of salt (based on average annual sales), primarily from its breads, cereals and cold meats, as well as some 79 tons of sugar from its chilled 100% fruit juices and nectars. What sweeteners are Woolworths removing? We’re removing aspartame, cyclamate and saccharin. 180 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, Aspartame is a nutritive sweetener, that is, it is digested by the body and adds energy, but because it is 180 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, only a small amount needs to be used. Cyclamate is a low-energy sweetener that is 30 times as sweet as sucrose. It is permitted for use in the European Union and in South Africa. Saccharin has been used as a sweetener for more than 100 years and is approved for use in over 100 countries, including South Africa. 450 to 550 times sweeter than sugar, it is not metabolised by the human body and is therefore considered a non-nutritive sweetener.

Food democracy, the growing trend whereby consumers are flexing their muscles and influencing decisions made by big food retailers and producers, is finding a foothold in South Africa.