Manufacturers to adapt to obesity policy or be forced to

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Food firms could be forced to adapt to the Government's new childhood obesity strategy by their stakeholders
Food firms could be forced to adapt to the Government's new childhood obesity strategy by their stakeholders

Related tags: health & wellness, Obesity rates, Obesity

Food manufacturers must quickly adapt to the Government’s plans to curb childhood obesity or risk being forced to by their investors and stakeholders, according to a report from investment charity Share Action.

In this exclusive interview, food and health senior manager Ignacio Vazquez  told Food Manufacture​ that research by Share Action indicated 69% of the food currently sold in the UK could be considered unhealthy, with even less suitable to be marketed to children.

“That percentage actually decreased further – 85% of the products were not suitable to be advertised to children,”​ he said. “This is why we think that the food industry at the moment seems to have a lot of work to do to adapt to these changes.”

Vazquez argued that the easiest way for manufacturers to fall in line with the new Government recommendations would be to accelerate their reformulation plans – such as lowering the sugar content– or improving the nutrient content of their products.

Acquisition of healthy brands

He also suggested focusing on health and wellbeing when acquiring new brands, thus increasing their healthy product portfolio in an inorganic way.

“At this moment, one of the key issues that we’re finding is that a lot of the companies themselves are not reporting their information in a way that can be scrutinised by consumers and investors,”​ Vazquez added.

“As a first step, we are recommending that companies really improve their reporting plans and they disclose what percentage of sales is coming from healthy products and they put together strategies to increase these percentages over time.”

With investors increasingly asking for this kind of information, Vazquez suggested it would be for the greater good that manufacturers were more open about their production of healthy foods.

Benefits of sharing information

He did understand that some producers could be hesitant about revealing too much about their businesses to potential rivals, but said the benefits would outweigh the perceived negative impact.

In particular, current reporting practices can skew the perception of some companies, with large confectionery companies like Ferrero looking much worse than a company like Friesland Campina who have been deemed by some to produce nothing but healthy products.

“We do see there is a big difference depending on which company you’re looking at and this is why we need to create a transparency so those differences can be understood,”​ said Vazquez.

Meanwhile, part one of the National Food Strategy, led by British entrepreneur Henry Dimbleby, has been published. It is the first independent review of the UK’s food policy in nearly 75 years. Industry reaction to the report was swift.

Related topics: Obesity, Legal

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