Food for Thought: Is There a Business Case for Sustainable Nutrition?

July 2006 Volume IV Number 4

Net Contents
I. Network Presentation
Key Learnings
Perspectives

II. What’s New

III. The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
The Concept of the Network
Contact Information
Sponsorship Opportunities

I. Network Presentation
A big thank you to those who took the time to attend WNSF’s luncheon panel on June 20, 2006 entitled “Food for Thought: Is there a Business Case for Sustainable Nutrition?” hosted by Gerber at the Novartis Headquarters in New York City. The session featured speakers from Gerber and Kraft, who shared their companies’ practices and the challenges they face.

Key Findings

  • Obesity is rising at an alarming rate both in the United States and internationally; it is a driving force in the food industry.
  • Both Gerber and Kraft have launched new programs in response to obesity and related health issues.
  • Food companies are also attuned to the growing demand from consumers for products that promote a healthier lifestyle.
  • Some corporate initiatives were launched in response to business risk but proved to benefit the business though increased sales and improved brand reputation.
  • Sustainable nutrition programs are compatible with business growth.

Perspectives

Moderator

  • Ann Goodman, Executive Director, WNSF.

Welcome

  • Jim Thomas, Global Head of Health, Safety & Environment and Business Continuity, Gerber Products Company

Speakers:

  • Kathleen Reidy, Dr.P.H., R.D, Global Director of Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs, Gerber Products Company
  • Katy Raneri, Director of Global Nutrition Strategy and Research, Kraft

Kathleen Reidy, Gerber
Ms. Reidy set the stage with alarming statistics on the rise of obesity both domestically and internationally. Ms. Reidy pointed to the distressing rise in childhood obesity and showed increasing global media coverage of the problem. Explaining that obesity is, and will continue to be, a driving force in the food industry, Dr. Reidy detailed Gerber’s response to this global crisis, focusing on the company’s “Start Healthy, Stay Healthy” program, which she described as “a science-based Gerber initiative to deliver appropriate products and consumer education to help parents establish healthy eating habits with their children, and promote a lifetime of good health”.

Gerber’s unique position in the market gives it an opportunity to focus on obesity prevention ‘at the source.’ Launched in 2001, the program was a response to growing social concern about obesity and related illnesses, such as diabetes. The program’s mission is to offer science-based research, education and product innovation to help prevent infant obesity. Dr. Reidy shared some of Gerber’s current research and educational initiatives for both parents and corporate professionals and showed how these efforts have driven product design.

The program began with Gerber’s landmark “Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study,” which revealed shocking findings on early eating habits and nutrition, such as the fact that the number one food eaten by toddlers is French fries.. Gerber believed the results were so important that it shared them widely with the rest of the industry, publishing over 20 scientific papers, informing pediatricians and partnering with the American Dietary Association to establish guidelines. Gerber also took on a grassroots campaign, working with formerly obese Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee to raise awareness of the issue by bringing in nutritional counselors and educational materials at Walmart stores.

Speaking to the business case for sustainable nutrition, Dr. Reidy said: “We took what we do well, what we really know, and we focused on it. We made it large through ‘Start Healthy, Stay Healthy’“. She identified five key business reasons for the program: (1) it’s a viable, long- term solution, (2) its foundation in science is key, (3) it supports the Gerber mission of helping parents raise happy, healthy babies, (4) it reinforces Gerber’s leadership in infant and toddler nutrition, (5) it fills the information gap for parents and health professionals.

Dr. Reidy also said the program increased both the company’s reputation and its brand recognition. Gerber’s brand strength doubled from 2001 when the science initiative began to reach $153 million in 2004. As a result, Gerber was featured in Fortune magazine as a company that “took a good brand and made it much, much better,” calling the “Start Healthy, Stay Healthy” program “a driver of success”.

Katy Raneri, Kraft
Ms. Raneri reiterated the growing problem of obesity and its crucial role in the food industry. Her presentation, “Health and Wellness: Working With Others to Achieve Constructive Solutions and Business Success,” focused on Kraft’s Sensible Solutions program and the company’s business case for addressing sustainable nutrition.

In 2003, Kraft launched a very extensive 11-point Health and Wellness Initiative, comprising four areas: Product Nutrition, Consumer Information, Marketing Practices, and, Advocacy and Dialogue. For each area, Kraft made specific global market policy commitments. In Product Nutrition, Kraft started two key programs: the Sensible Solutions program, now the company’s fastest growing product line, and a trans fat reduction program throughout its products. While Ms. Raneri assured the audience that the companies would continue to sell such ‘fun foods’ as Oreos, she explained that Kraft is gradually shifting toward healthier alternatives through extensive research and new programs.

As part of the Sensible Solutions program, Kraft has provided more nutritious choices, labeled with a green “Sensible Solutions” flag. These products have been a big success for Kraft, accounting for 30 percent of U.S. retail food revenues. What’s more, Ms. Raneri said, 43 percent of new products launched in the U.S. in 2005 “provided a specific health and wellness benefit”. Kraft’s marketing practices were altered to fit the new nutrition programs. For instance, Kraft’s current marketing strategy for TV/Radio/Print, primarily reaching children ages six to 11, shifts its product mix to Sensible Solution nourishing products.

Finally, Kraft has focused on community-based programs as a means to encourage healthier lifestyles, such as the “Salsa, Sabor, y Salud” program launched in 2003 in partnership with the National Latino Children’s Institute. Said Ms. Ranieri ” It is a first-of-its-kind, culturally grounded educational program that has reached approximately 10,000 adults and children in six states,” to which Kraft has committed over $ 4.4 million.”

An important issue discussed by Ms. Raneri was the business risk Kraft took with package nutrition labeling. The risk proved to be a business success: many consumers have responded positively to the additional and clearer nutrition labeling, in particular the dual column serving size nutrition facts. Some products, such as the new “100 calorie” packs, have also been enormously successful. Of the business case, Ms. Raneri said that overcoming the “taste hurdle” was key to selling more “sensible” products. Kraft has also seen sales increase from healthy recipes that include Sensible Solution substitutes for traditional ingredients.

Ms. Raneri concluded her presentation by reiterating that “obesity is a pressing public health issue” and asserting that “all stakeholders must do their part to effect meaningful change”. She said Kraft is proactively working to be part of the solution, “through better-for-you products, responsible policies, meaningful consumer communication and effective self regulation.”.

II. What’s New

  • WNSF is proud to bring to your attention an important feature story published in the June/July 2006 issue of Pink magazine, one of the nation’s leading publications aimed at executive women. “People, Planet, Profits,’ underscores the growing role women are playing in catapulting corporate social responsibility and sustainability to the fore in mainstream business-. The article widely references the WNSF and five of its Board members, including Dianne Dillon Ridgley, Karen Flanders, Ann Goodman, Joyce LaValle and Anita Roper. Highlights of the story can be accessed at Pink’s website, http://www.pinkmagazine.com.
  • WNSF will hold its first Atlanta roundtable on September 14. Please visit WNSF’s website for details.
  • Roundtables are also being scheduled for NYC and other cities starting this fall. Look for email invitations and announcements on the WNSF website.

III. The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
The Concept of the Network

The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF) provides a forum for businesswomen to congregate, reflect, and act on the convergent issues of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. Through meetings, training and simple electronic support tools, WNSF facilitates the exchange of experiences and best practices, building a community of businesswomen who can serve as powerful change agents for corporate responsibility sustainability in the US and internationally.

The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future is a 501c3 organization. Gifts are tax deductible.

For more information, please contact:

Ann Goodman, Executive Director
Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
Please direct inquiries to: info@wnsf.org

Board of Directors:

CHAIR: Kathy Robb, Esq., Partner and Head of Environmental Practice, Hunton & Williams; Dianne Dillon Ridgley, Director, Interface Inc. Board; Karen Flanders, Director of Sustainability, Coca-Cola Co.; Joanne Fox-Przeworski, Director, Bard Center for Environmental Policy, Bard College; Ann Goodman, Executive Director, WNSF; Sarah Howell, Director, Corporate Communications, BP; Michele Kahane, Special Projects Director, Center for Corporate Citizenship, Boston College; Clair Krizov, Executive Director of Environmental and Social Responsibility, AT&T; Joyce La Valle, Senior Vice President, Interface Inc.; Anita Roper, Director of Sustainability, Alcoa Corp.; Deborah Sliter, Vice President of Programs, National Environmental Education & Training Foundation.

This issue of Net Notes was written by Brittany Perkins and edited by Ann Goodman. WNSF thanks founding sponsors AT&T and the Ford Foundation for their generous support.

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