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Understanding, meeting consumer needs the key

Understanding, meeting consumer needs the key, says former Frucor CEO

Understanding consumers’ changing needs, offering them choices, and educating them on those choices is what the food and beverage industry is all about, says company director (former CEO of Frucor) Mark Callaghan in the latest FGC Leaders Series video.

He says the industry has to understand the situation consumers find themselves in – the lifestyle, the changes occurring in their environment – and design products to meet those needs.

“We want to continuously improve. We absolutely want to meet today’s consumers’ needs – that’s what our [FMCG] businesses are about, because understanding all those needs and then working together to solve them is the only way forward.

“We have to be constantly challenging a real mindset of continuous improvement in the things we do and it has to be deliberate, and it has to be with an end game in mind – trying to make products as good and as healthy and as positive for body and mind.”

He says it’s understanding how treats and healthy food fit together, “and continuously trying to improve what we do and making it appropriate for consumers for today. That’s very much a part of the role that we as leaders should be taking”.

Mark Callaghan says industry has to give consumers the right alternatives and the right information.

“The challenge is to find the right balance, and for most food manufacturers we therefore have to work really hard on our offer. We have to continuously try to improve it.

“We’ve got a lot of consumers who still like treats … but equally we have to try to create products that we know are going to help their current environment.

“Our job is to try to meet the needs of all consumers, so you must have the appropriate level of choice. I don’t think you can stay in the one zone, particularly if you’re a large manufacturer – just make treats or just make healthy – you’ve got to try to understand the consumer.”

He says industry also has to play a big part in educating consumers, by way of the Health Star Rating, daily average intake thumbnails, and back-of-pack information panels, all of which tell them about the types and quality of ingredients to enable them to be able to make more choice.

“Equally, I believe we should be out there playing our part in educating right at the coalface – in schools, with education programmes, making sure we help consumers make the right choices at the right times.

“A treat is fine at a point in time but equally a good healthy diet for the rest of the time is still important too. So we have to find ways to give them that information and provide them with the choice they need.”

FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich says the Leaders Series is designed to expose member companies to insights and ideas of some of the leaders and thinkers within FGC, and Mark Callaghan’s message is one that is supported by the industry.

“Companies know that it’s about finding the right balance: between giving consumers what they want and giving them other, healthier, choices. Industry is aware of this balancing act and is continuously working on it.

“FGC members have been working hard to provide more information, with more than 1000 products now sporting the Health Stars and many of our member companies funding or supporting education programmes and initiatives in schools and communities. Member companies are playing a key role in encouraging healthier lifestyles and we are looking to do more.”

Speakers in the FGC Leaders Series so far have been Geoff Shaw of Saturn Group on training up talent for senior roles, Sharna Heinjus of Kimberly-Clark on sustainability, Veronique Cremades of Nestlé on health and wellness, Gerry Lynch of Mars on health and safety, Kelly Smith on attracting and retaining staff, and Pic Picot on sustainability.

ENDS

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