School Meals, Kid's Health Central to Debate
Brussels, Belgium (November 9, 2005) —The current European health crisis, its challenges to public policy and the impact to food and beverage manufacturers was the central theme that brought senior executives, regulatory managers, product developers and academics to the Healthy Foods European Summit in the historic La Plaza hotel in Brussels.
Delegates from leading food and beverage companies like Cadbury Schweppes, Kraft, Ajinomoto, Nestle, Carrefour, McNeil Nutritionals, Group Danone, Hain Europe, Coca-Cola, and European Food & Drink Trade Associations heard thought-provoking presentations that they rated as "exceptional." Industry leaders such as Paul Coussement, CEO of Orafti noted that the food industry "must have the courage to say that what we've done hasn't worked." Coussement acknowledged that many companies are scrambling to have a health makeover, but he also challenged companies to look at consumers holistically and to support personalized nutrition, new food labelling concepts and progressive insurance plans that reward people for maintaining a healthy weight.
The two-day conference covered wide-ranging issues pertinent to product developers in the European marketplace. Delegates heard presentations on a variety of compelling topics including obesity, kids nutrition, innovation, heath claims, nutrient profiling, consumer communications and biotechnology
Delegates also heard examples of positive initiatives in Finland, Italy and the UK, where a celebrity chef has forced the government to change policy on school meals as a result of a TV series exposing the poor nutritional quality of food being served to children.
Discussions turned to the complex issue of communicating health benefits to consumers. The presentation by Benecol demonstrated very clearly that branding strategy and innovation in marketing and packaging are equally as important as science in engaging consumers with healthy foods.
Another hot topic focused on the controversial subject of nutrient profiling. Delegates were warned that many accepted foods would have an unfavourable nutrient profile under proposed EU legislation. Other views said nutrient profiling did not serve any purpose from a health education point of view. But larger companies are not waiting for legislation, and food giants such as PepsiCo and Kraft are already introducing their own sign-posting and guidance systems such as the concept of indicating healthier choices by category, which has been successful in Australia.
This event, held October 19-20, heralded the first time the Healthy Foods Conference, an annual event on the East Coast of North America, has been held in Europe under the umbrella of New Hope Natural Media, the producer of Natural Products Expos, SupplyExpo, Nutrition Business Journal and Functional Foods & Nutraceuticals magazine. Sponsoring companies for the event included The Solae Company, Cargill/Corowise, Ocean Nutrition/Meg-3, National Starch/Hi-maize, Orafti and Nairns Oatcakes/Simmers of Edinburgh.
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New Hope Natural Media (www.newhope.com) is the leading multimedia resource and information provider for the healthy products industry with print, in-person/event, and e-business products and services. New Hope is a division of Penton Media, Inc. (OTCBB: PTON, www.penton.com), a leading diversified business media company that produces market-focused magazines, websites, trade shows and conferences.