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Exclusive interview

Beneo board: “Let us not forget that functional food responds to a clear demand of the consumer”

By Shane Starling , 20-Dec-2011

In the first part of this exclusive interview, Beneo Group executive board member, Yves Servotte, explains how European Union health claim rules have informed strategic thinking at one of Europe’s biggest and most vocal ingredient vendors.

Servotte explained why his company will continue to battle for change in the interpretation of the nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR), a regulation whose intentions he believes, “are not necessarily in line with the results”.

“It was a good initiative by the European Community to bring some law and order in the health claims and with the results that we have today it is clear that we have to adjust here and there a part of our strategy,” he reflected.

“What we definitely will not change is our belief in health and functional food products. We believe we have excellent studies demonstrating the advantages of our ingredients in the gut healthy area. But on the other hand we will cope with the legislation and adjust our communication until we have new files applied in Europe.”

He said establishing the Beneo Institute in late 2009 to share nutrition science developments and scrutinise regulatory insights in the food sector was part of the long view the Belgian firm took of the changing face of the European industry, and its role within it.

“It was a strategic decision by the company that we want to be an active player in the world of functional foods. Secondly it was also a clear decision that we are aware that in order to develop this market of functional food that a lot of efforts are still necessary.”

“…there is still time needed for further discussion…”

It has realised that a lot of those efforts need to be in the area of communication, of raising its own voice and that of the industry – of engaging in lobbying.

“It is clear that between the stakeholders there is still time needed for further discussion,” Servotte said.

We are of the opinion that the intentions of the legislation are not necessarily in line with the results. And so we will be a constructive partner.”

“We will work with the legislators, consumers and other companies wanting to be active in functional food and making sure that we find the compromise which is on one hand protecting the consumer, but on the other hand making possible that innovation has a chance in the food industry and functional food is clearly one of those domains where the food industry is waiting for. Let us not forget that functional food responds to a clear demand of the consumer.”

“We have issues like obesity, like constipation, where people in the industrialised world are looking for adapted food products. That’s what it’s all about and that’s what we want to contribute to.”

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