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Who controls the future of food?

What's the future of the healthy nutrition industry? The U.S. auto industry recently asked itself a simiar question, and if Chevrolet is any indication, the industry has answered by taking off in a positive new direction. But what about us?

FDA and consumers are asking us a lot of tough questions these days. And we can’t sit back and wait for regulatory agencies, marketers or even angry consumer movements, to map a path for us.

Tom Aarts contributed a provocative piece to Nutrition Business Journal last summer, titled “10 years from now, what should the nutrition industry look like?” In it he advocated that we set a vision for ourselves—that we ask tough questions and make our own map. Nearly a year later I don’t think we’ve risen to the challenge.

So I pose it here to you again. Read his article. But in brief, here are the points with which I most agree.

The need and the opportunity:

“I believe that certain nutritional ingredients, whether delivered in supplement or food form, can help mitigate healthcare costs from diseases associated with the Western diet. These supplements can counterbalance the perverse incentives in the current healthcare system for quick fixes and sickcare solutions.”

The call to action:

“I want to front-engineer our path to progress by creating an ‘idealized redesign’ of the entire supplement industry. The goal is not to plan away from a current or forecast state, but to plan toward a desired state.”

Aarts puts forward his idealized vision of what the industry will look like 10 years from now. His vision hits on a lot of important points and encompasses societal shifts that are already taking place in small ways.

To his vision I would add one of the strategies put forward by the Institute of Medicine in their recent report titled Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation:

“Congress, the Administration and federal agencies should examine the implications of U.S. agriculture policy for obesity, and should ensure that such policy includes understanding and implementing, as appropriate, an optimal mix of crops and farming methods for meeting the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

The laws of the free market, of supply and demand, fail us when we are driven by addiction—to sugar, fat and simple carbohydrates and cheap, non-nutritious foods that are quite literally killing us.

As an industry deeply rooted in health and nutrition and as a powerful group of consumers demanding better products, we should also be demanding not just genetically-modified labeling on food, but that our government rethink the subsidies, practices and policies that got us here. Farmers are not conspiring against us. They’re supplying what the food industry demands and what the government pays them to grow—or not grow as the case may be.

What would you add to or change about Aarts’ vision? Comment here or join the conversation on LinkedIn.

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