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Will the EU Green Deal open new opportunities for the ingredients industry? [Interview]

Article-Will the EU Green Deal open new opportunities for the ingredients industry? [Interview]

The EU Green Deal will have implications for front-of-pack labelling, as well as for organic farming. Can flavours support the Deal’s objective to help consumers in making healthy choices? We interviewed Alexander Mohr, Executive Director of the European Flavour Association (EFFA), to walk us through the different EU priorities, policy changes and upcoming legislation, and to gain some insights into the opportunities this presents for both the ingredients industry in general, as well as for the flavour category in particular.

What are the main objectives of EFFA?

“As the European Flavour Association, we are the voice of flavours in Europe. Our members are Flavour Houses and National Flavour Associations from across Europe.”

“Our objectives include promoting and supporting a consistent Europe-wide strategy on flavour issues, monitoring flavour-related EU legislation and being a partner for the EU institutions, creating networks and alliances with other European associations, and providing coordination and direction to our members on regulatory, communication and public affairs topics.”

What is the EU Green Deal?

“The EU Green Deal is, in short, the EU’s plan to make the Union’s economy sustainable by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities. It provides an action plan to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy. The aim is to restore biodiversity and cut pollution. For the food & drink industry, this is translated into the so-called ‘Farm to Fork Strategy’.”

“This Strategy is at the heart of the EU Green Deal. The agri-food sector is the leading employer in the EU with 4.72 million people and a turnover of €1.192 billion. It is therefore a crucial piece in the EU’s efforts for 2050. Its main objective is to make sure Europeans get access to healthy, affordable and sustainable food. This includes very ambitious targets, such us to increase organic farming by at least 25% (currently 8%) and to reduce the dependency on pesticides by 50%.”

How will the EU Green Deal impact the F&B market and consumers?

“These policy developments and the legislation that will arise from them can bring several challenges to the industry, but also opportunities. They can be the drivers of change.”

“One example, as mentioned before, is organic. With the European Commission aiming at having at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land under organic farming by 2030, this can be seen as an interesting opportunity for the food and drink industry. At the same time, the legislation is also being updated and detailed rules on organic production, certification, labelling and advertising are being laid out (Regulation (EU) 2018/848). They were supposed to be applicable as of 2021, but due to the COVID pandemic and the legislative delay that it brought in many areas, it has been postponed to 2022.” 

“Another example is labelling. The main objective of the Strategy is the creation of a healthy food environment which makes the healthy and sustainable choice the ‘easy choice’. As consequence, this could have a great impact on labelling, which under the Farm to Fork Strategy, is supposed to not only inform consumers but also empower them to choose healthy and sustainable diets. The Commission will propose mandatory harmonised front-of-pack nutrition labelling and develop a sustainable food labelling framework that covers the nutritional, climate, environmental and social aspects of food products. Ingredient producers should therefore keep in mind how their product can have an impact on the relevant labelling (or not).”

How is EFFA contributing to achieving the objectives of the EU Green Deal?

“There are two different aspects. How the flavour industry is working towards the objectives of the EU Green Deal and how EFFA is supporting the flavour industry in doing it.”

“Regarding the flavour industry, flavours have a fundamental role to play in one of the overall objectives of the Farm to Form Strategy; which is, making the healthy choice easy. Flavourings can help consumers choose a more conscious diet without compromising on taste. This goes for products with reduced salt, sugar, fat, as well as for plant-based proteins. Flavourings can provide the consumer with a full taste experience, and taking into account that taste is often cited as the main criteria for choosing a food product, the role that flavourings play in helping the consumer go for the healthy choice, is key.”

“At the same time, as a European trade association, EFFA plays a role in providing timely information and a constructive discussion with key partners. Together with volunteers from the membership, we have developed several documents in that direction. Just to pick up on the examples I mentioned earlier, we developed a Fact Sheet on nutritional labelling and a Guidance Document, and we also ran a series of webinars on the new Organic Regulation.”

What are your predictions for the flavour category over the next 3-5 years?

“Of course, the COVID pandemic had an impact on the sector, just as it has impacted the whole world and day to day life. The category has displayed an incredible resilience and highlighted the fundamental role of flavourings in the overall food chain. The <10.000 employees in our member companies formed part of the so-called ‘food heroes’ in this crisis, and they will continue playing a key role in the coming months and years.”

“In terms of market, I think that the consumer is moving in the same direction as the policy makers. They are also demanding healthier products, but at the same time, great taste experiences. Flavourings will continue to provide solutions, particularly in the area of sustainability, conscious dieting and also for plant-based products.”

What are your predictions for the F&B industry over the next 3-5 years?

“Recent analysis shows that one of the impacts of COVID on consumer health is that there is an increased focus on lifestyle conditions and blurring lines between health and nutritional products in traditional food/beverage areas. As I mentioned before, these trends are very powerful. They are a combination of consumers’ expectations and policy makers’ objectives, not only in the EU but worldwide (e.g. included in the WHO guidelines). They will therefore be very influential and the driving force for the food and beverage industry in the coming years.”