Sebastian Emig said the Netherlands would focus heavily on nutrition and reformulation, throwing snacks into the line of fire but also providing opportunity for industry to showcase past and current efforts.
Latvia is the current president of the EU Council; Luxembourg is set to take over in July and the Netherlands in January 2016.
“We have heard that at the beginning of 2016, when the Dutch are going to take over the Council presidency, they will be putting a strong focus on nutrition as well as product reformulation,” Emig told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“For us, it’s sort of like a perfect storm because we are hammering out day-to-day messages on how the snack sector has improved the composition of its products and how we have been successfully reformulating products, either visually or under the radar, but also bringing out new products, which is key. This is going to help us cover new grounds with new member states. If they look into product reformulation, we can say ‘look at what we’ve been doing for 20 years’ – we’re far ahead of the curve.”
He said snack makers across Europe had significantly reduced sodium and saturated fat levels in a vast number of products over the years and were continuing to invest in further. Oil changes, salt replacers and seasonings R&D were just a handful of strategies being used, he said.
In the line of fire
However, Emig acknowledged that along with opportunities under the EU Council change there would also be a tougher spotlight on snacks.
“We see our sectors under strong fire. We see it with sugars – the confectionery and soft drinks industry are being battled; you see the alcohol industry is currently under strong focus; and especially where the focus is really strong on nutrition, we are also going to be in the line of fire.”
The salty snack category, for example, was often incorrectly considered a substantial contributor of salt and saturated fat in the diet, he said.
Despite this, Emig maintained the EC Council change would bring more opportunities than challenges.
“For me, this is more of an opportunity because this gives us a platform to explain to policy makers and NGOs what we have done in the past.”
Less is more
Emig said future nutritional developments in snacks would likely take a sideways shift to a ‘less is more’ approach – “less components in snacks, for example, as this is seen by the consumer as more natural”.
The free-from trend would also rise, he said, as well as the desire for added nutrients like protein, fiber and pulses.
Work on salt and saturated fat reduction would continue, he said, but further change would be incremental as a lot had already been achieved.
“The manufacturers are looking to the retailers and they’re saying what consumers want and don’t want, and it’s up to the manufacturer as well as the supplier to put on their thinking caps on where they can go a little further,” he said.