Health trend will hit sales, says business forum

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

The UK-based International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) has warned
snack food manufacturers that reluctance to address the growing
obesity epidemic could hit them where it hurts - their sales
figures.

The charity, along with investment group, Insight, have released a report for businesses giving guidance and recommending measures for each company to adopt in order to devise a clearly-defined policy statement to deal with public health issues.

They suggest that, in view of the trend towards healthy-eating, large snack food companies such as Unilever and Danone could suffer financially and lose valuable consumer confidence if they fail to respond to health concerns.

Director of investor responsibility at Insight, Rachel Crossley said: " While companies are increasingly recognizing the importance and value of acting responsibly, many in the food sector appear blind to how critical consumer health issues are likely to be to their future success."

According to financial services company JP Morgan, cited in the report, 18 of the fastest growing food categories globally such as cereals, fruit, vegetables and yoghurt are those which are perceived by consumers as 'healthy'.

Slower growth was noted in markets such as snacks, desserts and confectionery.

Businesses are advised in the framework to invest further in R & D of healthy products - in particular reducing levels of trans fats, fat, salt and sugar - and devising specific policy commitments for doing so.

It also pointed out that, if companies incorporate their own policy on health, it may diminish the need for regulatory intervention from governing bodies.

The IBLF has praised the work already done in this area by companies such as Kraft, Danone and Unilever but stress that more must be achieved to improve public health.

Director of IBLF's Healthy Eating & Active Living (HEAL) Global Partnership, Olive Boles said: "Consumer health and obesity are crucial public health issues which demand further attention and resources."

HEAL was set up by the not-for-profit IBLF as an independent programme to address ways in which business could be involved in tackling obesity and poor diet.

Its report was drawn up following the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health which was released in April and urged companies to take more responsibility in promoting a healthy diet.

According to the WHO, 1 billion adults are overweight, with 300 million of these certified as clinically obese.

These figures are causing chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease to dramatically increase - it is forecast that, by 2015, 41 million will die of a chronic disease.

A series of consultation will be run by the IBLF until the end of August which will allow NGOs, consumer groups and businesses to make their views known.

Related topics: Ingredients, Health

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