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'Worrying' obesity trend prompts EU confectioners to tackle portion sizes

By Oliver Nieburg+

06-Jun-2016
Last updated on 06-Jun-2016 at 14:26 GMT2016-06-06T14:26:10Z

EU confectioners backs portion control to address health concerns. Photo: iStock/Dejan_Dundjerski
EU confectioners backs portion control to address health concerns. Photo: iStock/Dejan_Dundjerski

Portion size control will be a focal point of the European confectionery industry’s push to address consumer concerns on health & nutrition, according to industry association CAOBISCO.

The Association of Chocolate, Biscuits and Confectionery Industries of Europe (CAOBISCO) recently released a position paper in which it agreed to confront “unfounded accusations” about confections and to help consumers to control their calorie intake.

The trade body hopes to highlight 'portion control' as a core approach at its General Assembly in Brussels on Thursday this week.

ConfectioneryNews will moderate the event, which includes a roundtable featuring CAOBISCO members Nestlé, Mondelēz and Ferrero (see program below for more details).

Triggered by worrying obesity trend

Sabine Nafziger, secretary general of CAOBISCO, told this site: “The background of the whole conversation is obesity.”

Optional portion control measures

CAOBISCO’s Feburary 2016 paper created a 'Menu of Options' for its members to address health & nutrition concerns. One option on portion control encourages its members to:

  • Increase the range of available portion sizes including provision of small portions and provision of “bite-size” variants.
  • Provide individually wrapped portions.
  • Provide visual representation of portions.
  • Define a calorie cap on ‘countlines’ designed to fit with the corresponding eating occasions.
  • Enabling packaging reclose, so consumers may enjoy part of a product and save the rest for later.

In February, the Dutch presidency presented its ‘Roadmap for Action on Food Product Improvement ’ to stakeholders in the European food chain.

The document said the EU’s rising overweight and obese population was harming quality of life and life expectancy in Europe, propagated by diets high in salt, saturated fats and sugars (calories).

The Dutch presidency said national governments have the responsibility to set public health objectives, while the food industry supply chain has a shared responsibility to improve food products.

Nafziger said: "The purpose of the event [this week] is to show how members engage. We want to put a focus on one notion, which is portion sizes."

A threat to volume sales?

But might smaller portions threaten volumes sales for the European confectionery industry?

"You could take it as an issue,” said Nafziger. "But if you look at figures, the consumption is more or less stable over the last decade.

“You have people in the population who overeat and you have people who don’t eat our products,” she continued. “I don’t think it necessarily means a negative effect on sales. We want to engage with the consumers who over-consume our category."

EU Commission: Industry is essential partner to reverse obesity levels

Alexandra Nikolakopoulou, head of the European Commission’s DG SANTE unit for nutrition, food composition and information, said encouraging healthy lifestyles should not rest solely upon public policy and the health sector.

“Stakeholders such as CAOBISCO and its members have a significant role to play and remain essential partners in halting and reversing the worrying trends in overweight and obesity,” she said.

Nikolakopoulou added she was pleased CAOBISCO was engaged these issues and looked forward to hearing how it could “step up and develop ambitious actions and strong commitments to tackle pressing health problems in the EU”.

‘Promoting mindful eating’

Alessandro Cagli, CAOBISCO vice-president and public affairs director at Ferrero, said the industry focus was to provide “pleasure” and “balance”.

“In this perspective, the Roundtable Discussion represents an important moment to demonstrate that CAOBISCO members take their role and responsibilities towards consumers seriously.

“I will present the engagements of CAOBISCO members to address, in an appropriate and flexible way, consumers’ concerns on health and nutrition, with a particular focus on how small portions can contribute to promoting mindful eating.”

CAOBISCO commitment

In February 2016, CAOBISCO members agreed:

1) To address unbalanced and unfounded accusation about its products, such as that of purposely creating “addicting” food products, of using ingredients that are “bad for your health”, being “bad for the environment” or “not respecting ethical practices”, such as child labor.

2) To argue confections have no negative consumer impact when used in moderation, in the framework of a balanced diet and an active lifestyle.

3) Not to compromise on consumer enjoyment of its products. But members are open to reducing nutrients of public health concern by, for example, offering additional products and a wider range of portion sizes.

4) To engage with stakeholders.

On top of the commitments above, CAOBISCO has also developed a ‘Menu of Options’ for its members on portion control, product composition, promotion of healthy lifestyles, labeling, and responsible advertising and marketing to children. It encourages its members to adopt at least one or more of its recommendations. See HERE for more details.

General Assembly

CAOBISCO’s General Assembly takes place on Thursday June 9 at the Square – Brussels Meeting Centre. It will feature representatives of European institutions, consumer NGOs and the scientific world as well as major industry players.                                                                                                                                                                                        

PROGRAM

13h00-14h00

Welcome and walking lunch

14h00-14h05

Introduction by the Moderator, Oliver Nieburg (journalist, ConfectioneryNews)

14h05-14h15

Opening remarks, Patrick Poirrier (Caobisco President)

14h15-14h30

Presentation of Caobisco engagements, Alessandro Cagli (Caobisco Vice-President)

14h30-14h50

European  Commission’s perspective on Caobisco’s engagements, Alexandra Nikolakopoulou (DG SANTE, EU Commission)

14h50-15h10

Consumer perspective and expectations, Pauline Castres (BEUC)

15h10-15h30

Scientific opinion about the role of portions in the diet, Prof. David Benton, department of psychology – Swansea University

15h30-16h15

Caobisco members on their implementation of the engagements and in particular with respect to portions:

-          Richard Wood (Nestlé)

-          Belinda Quick (Mondelēz)

-          Roberto Menta (Ferrero)

16h15-16h55

Panel Discussion and interaction with the audience

16h55-17h00

Conclusions by the Moderator and Sabine Nafziger, Caobisco Secretary General

17h00

End

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