More than 80 Sheffield Hallam University students are set to work with Asda to deliver recommendations on how they can reduce sugar in their own-brand biscuits.

The collaborative project with the UK based supermarket chain aims to tackle obesity by reducing the amount of sugar in a range of Asda own-brand biscuits, including bourbons, custard creams and milk chocolate digestives.

The project will culminate in the students giving presentations and recommendations to the Asda team as well as the Merchandising Centre of Excellence (MCE) in April 2019 based on their research.

The food marketing management and food and nutrition students will reformulate Asda products to reduce sugar, as well as designing infrastructure to drive sales and actively market the healthier products.

Those involved will gain real-time industry experience working on a project which addresses an issue high on government and industry agendas, developing employability and professional skills.

The food innovation consultancy challenge is a new module for final year undergraduates on two food related courses within the Sheffield Business School. The module encourages students to work as consultants for industry projects to produce marketing and product development solutions.

Michael Benson, senior lecturer at Sheffield Business School and pioneer of the collaborative project said: “All sectors of the food and drinks industry have been challenged to reduce overall sugar content across a range of products by at least 20% by 2020. This project offers students ‘live’ experience of some of the challenges facing their industry over the coming years.”

He added: “The challenge will give students a unique opportunity to work with a leading retailer and gain first-hand experience in a demanding environment, which will add to their CVs and help with future employability.”

Simon King, own brand commercial manager at Asda said: “This is an exciting project to develop with Sheffield Hallam University. The students will get the chance to build on and test what they have already learned, and Asda get a fresh perspective on innovation that will be critical to face into an important challenge facing the next generation.”

Andrew Johnston is currently a new product development chef at Asda, as well as a food technology degree apprentice at SHU. Andrew started his course in September 2018 and is on the first cohort of food technology apprentices.

Degree apprenticeships at SHU have been developed in subject areas identified as important to the future success of the economy including management, healthcare, construction, engineering and computing.

The apprentices spend the majority of their time in the workplace, typically, attending university for three or four days at a time, approximately six times per year, with this decreasing in the final year.

Andrew said: “The collaboration is working well with Sheffield Hallam and we are fortunate to work with such fantastic students. They are all passionate about food and keen to make a real-world impact to quality of life in the UK by reducing the amount of sugar in our own-brand biscuits. We look forward to seeing some innovative ideas in the coming months and working with Sheffield Hallam students to help tackle obesity, particularly amongst young people.”

Sheffield Hallam University is a national leader in creating innovative and real-world solutions for tackling today’s health and wellbeing challenges.

The University specialises in healthcare research and its practitioners, scientists, engineers and designers regularly collaborate to create innovative solutions to global health challenges.