How the EU elections are expected to impact snack producers

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

How the EU elections are expected to impact snack producers

Related tags European commission elections Green Deal Farm to fork SNACKEX

We catch up with Sebastian Emig, director general of the European Snacks Association (ESA) to find out why he is excited about the upcoming elections for the new European Parliament. He also talks about the Green Deal and SNACKEX 2024: an event not to be missed.

Why are you excited about the upcoming European Parliament elections?

On the one hand, ESA is a business networking organization, while on the other, we also provide relevant policy information that help our members’ businesses grow. We also defend their business interests and do some advocacy as well.

For us, the three key interlocutors are the European Commission, the European member states and the European Parliament. A reshuffle takes place every five years, which, for us, is always a fantastic opportunity to show the successes from our sector – what have we done in terms of reformation, nutrition, reducing contaminants over that period – but also a chance to ‘inform’ policymakers, especially the new ones who do not know exactly yet where our challenges lie and how we can overcome them.

I think one of the key benefits is that we always supply data, because without data you just have claims. So we provide proof and evidence and facts in order to sustain the arguments that we put forward. We hope these are going to be considered in order to come up with sensible science-based policymaking: this, for us, is really key.

And due to the fact the majority of the parliament will be changed – there’s going to be 50% to 60% new members – it’s a wonderful opportunity to create new connections and new pathways to get across our message and work together with members of the European Parliament.

Are you hoping this new chapter will bring in massive changes for the snacks industry?

The past five years has been very strongly focused on the Green Deal, which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called ‘Europe’s man on the moon moment’.

Within that we have the food chapter, the Farm to Folk strategy. This is something we have focused strongly upon. That doesn’t necessarily mean that our members haven’t done anything about sustainability in the last 20-30 years, they certainly have.

But it offered us the opportunity to bring in again the evidence and the facts of what the sector has done so far in that important field. So we’ll definitely continue to focus on that.

I’ve seen President Van der Leyer in Maastricht speaking about the future priorities of the next Commission. Of course, the Member state leaders propose the new Commission boss and then Parliament needs to select that person, but we assume that it’s going to be President Van der Leyer for a second term and we’re really excited about that. So, the Green Deal will be a strong pillar (for ESA).

Ultra processed foods is currently a hot topic and we’ve seen messages coming from the science side as well as the hype from the media side. This is something we have been working on together with FoodDrinkEurope – our mother association – in order to bust some myths. As we all know, we need processed food, otherwise, everybody would need to have a garden and there would be a lot of food waste.

There are many arguments, and we are among many sectors who are speaking up to explain.

I don’t actually like the word ‘educate’ because education has, for me, an asymmetry of knowledge transfer. Educate means, I know better than you, so that’s not for me. It’s explaining, creating interest and just to say, well, you might have heard this and here is some other information, which is also important and founded on facts. So maybe create a mindset that is more balanced.

What influence does ESA have in policy decisions?

I think every advocacy organization asks itself the same question: what clout do we have? What weight do we bring for our members who are paying membership fees? But it’s very difficult to quantify that.

However, I’ll give you one example that does quantify our ‘clout’ a little bit.

A couple of years ago, we had a case about  blanching peanuts in front of the World Trade Organization (WTO). We had one WTO state that wanted to bring raw peanuts into the blanched category,​ which would have made no sense scientifically. ESA spearheaded a coalition of several organizations and sectors in order to submit valuable arguments that justified why raw peanuts should remain raw.

Why was that important for our members and beyond our membership? Blanched and raw peanuts have different trade regimes, so different taxes for imports and exports. The raw ones are zero tax based, while the blanched ones – depending on the import and export within the different states – have a tax of between 5% and 11%.

If the raw peanuts – which most of our members deal with – were put into the blanched category, our members would suffer and eventually see a loss over months or years. Other sectors, too – to the tune of billions of Euros.

So that was a massive win. We were even supported by the European Commission Technical Committee that raw peanuts should remain raw.

Besides that, we fight on every opportunity where we see the business interests of our members that are potentially disadvantaged. We’re not alone here and are very well represented within FoodDrinkEurope. My team and I sit in key positions on leading committees within that association. And even though we are very small sector, we are quite influential.

You’ve now been working with Sandy Iagallo as ESA president for nearly two years …

I’ve been working for ESA for over 10 years and each and every president has brought extremely valuable insights from their company into the secretariat. It’s been fantastic, especially as the opinion that, as a trade association, we don’t necessarily have the business experience because we are an advocacy organization with technical experience.

Sandy, especially, has been pivotal​ and always been on top of the key topics that we’ve dealt with over the past months and years. Even before she became president, she was an outstanding member of the ESA board. So, it’s a pleasure and a privilege to work with her.

Let's talk SNACKEX, which is now around the corner. What can visitors and exhibitors expect?

It’s going to be the biggest and the best show so far. ​We’ve been completely overwhelmed and flabbergasted by the amount of feedback we’ve received from exhibitors as well as attendees.

We will have far more than 100 exhibitors and are expecting 3,000 to 4,000 attendees, which is huge numbers, especially because it’s a focused professional sector-related show. Only people who have a background within our savory snack sector are allowed entry.

Can you mention some of the exhibitors?

We are going to have all the exhibitors we’ve had in the past – ingredient producers like Kerry; machinery producers like Rosenquist – all of the big names and many smaller names as well who want to make a footprint in the sector.


Trade show EduLeite
Pic: GettyImages/EduLeite

Wednesday June 19: 09:00-18:00

Thursday June 20: 09:00-16:00

Mässvägen 1, 125 30 Älvsjö, Stockholm, Sweden

Registration is now open

As a visitor, you’re going to see old faces and refresh business connections, but you’re also going to be surprised with the new players presenting there for the very first time.

The show will cover every aspect of the snacks-making business – from the farm to packaging to the palletizing.

How has the show evolved and grown?

In the past, we had the focus on the conference and exhibitors were really just tabletops.

The conference did play an important role in submitting knowledge to participants, but it pulled people away from the trade show. We always had this dichotomy between the conference and people walking the show floor.

This will be the first time that we won’t have a conference, with the exhibition as the main focus. It will be fully immersed on the business and the networking side: where you really see the innovations that are happening, as well as those in the pipeline.

This year, we’ve enhanced the Snack Science Hub with presentations – tactical ones from the exhibitors, alongside those presented on their stands and their latest innovations. This is going to be like a condensed version of the technical conference on the show floor.

Each SNACKEX edition is held in a different venue. Why do you follow this model?

We have tried to oscillate between Nordic and southern countries, and sometimes the middle of Europe, in order to grasp the totality of the region and to make it more accessible to people, for example, from the Nordics.

We already have the next location ready for the next show (in 2026), which is going to be in the south (watch this space).

We try to accommodate interested business contexts from all parts of Europe – and the ret of the world but staying in Europe.

What is your takeaway message for my readers?

If you haven’t signed up for Stockholm, you should do so now. It’s the most comprehensive show within the sector. Given it’s a biannual show, if you miss it, you’ll need to wait for another two years for the next one.

My team and I will obviously be in Stockholm on the ESA stand and we look forward to meeting with you. We are very happy to give you help and be there to defend your interests.

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