March 14, 2016
Guest blog post by Sebastian Emig, Director General of the European Snacks Association (ESA).
A couple of weeks ago the Netherlands EU Presidency organised a High Level Conference on Food Product Improvement and presented a “Roadmap for action” establishing the initial steps towards a more concerted action at European level.
The European Snacks Association (ESA) is among the enthusiast supporter of this topical initiative that distils the long-standing efforts of our industry towards product reformulation and improvement. This should be seen in the light of the overarching Framework for “National initiatives on selected nutrients”, which included key milestones focusing on salt and saturated fat.
The food industry – and ESA – has embarked on a continuous journey to improve its products and continue to bring to consumers the food they love. But the “game changer”, which some are expecting, won’t come from the food industry alone. As the Dutch Minister of Health, Welfare and Sports Edith Schippers said at the conference “Lifestyle is a matter of personal choice and personal freedom” and I couldn’t agree more.
Centuries ago Hippocrates brilliantly summarised it, and in my opinion it can still easily be applied today as a sensible leitmotif that can be the basis for future debates about nutrition and health: “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”
I do believe that when it comes to food, as for many other things, it is all about balance and moderation: Balance and moderation in a varied daily diet that can contain all the foods you love, and balance about the calories you take in and the ones you burn. Those two key words – balance and moderation – are the pillars of the European Savoury Snacks industry when we are talking about health and nutrition.
I can tell you that the savoury snacks you enjoy have been reduced in salt and or saturated fat over the last decade. And members of the ESA continuously improve their nutritional composition; despite the fact that our products account only for a very small part of overall dietary intake of salt and saturated fat. Having been very successful in decreasing these nutrients in our products, future changes will be only incremental.
In the end, our palates will decide if we like (and continue to buy) a food or not. It is well known that taste is the crucial factor in a food purchase decision, and consumers will not accept strong and sudden changes in taste; either they will add sugar or salt by themselves or they will simply walk away. The European Savoury Snacks Sector wants to be an active partner in the debate about reformulation and nutrition, but achieving a real step change will depend on concerted collaboration between governments, research, education, retailers, civil society organisations, caterers and restaurants and food business operators.
We all need to work together to change and nudge consumers’ behaviours and preferences towards healthier, delicious and enjoyable products. We, at ESA, strongly support Minister Schippers’ call for joining forces on product improvement and will continue to work for that.