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CAOBISCO is the association of chocolate, biscuit and confectionery industries of Europe and the voice of more than 12,700 manufacturers. Recently appointed secretary general Marina Valverde shares the organization’s plans and an industry outlook at a time of change. 

By Catalina Mihu

Marina Valverde (pictured) has over 20 years of experience in various EU public affairs positions in Brussels; she worked at EuroCommerce, the European association representing retail and wholesale on food policy issues. She brings her knowledge of EU policy and regulatory developments, to help guide the association through legislation and develop strategies, “to position CAOBISCO as a key game player in crucial discussions, such as on nutrition and health or competitiveness,” she told us.

Survival of the fittest

To illustrate the status of the association and the industry, she quotes Japanese scholar Okakura Kakuzo: “The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” Similarly, “The configuration, environment and expectations of our membership and the European scene are changingand we have to adapt and evolve accordingly.

In our vast and challenging domain, it is easy to exhaust financial and human resources.” This is why the association decided to narrow its focuses on two main pillars: monitoring key issues and advocacy/communication. Valverde is set to lead the association through this transition.

While the organization aims to set global policies, the secretary general tells us that some of its more specific country priorities include:

  • Food taxes: “while some countries do not seem to have entered a debate on ‘food taxes’, others have already taken (and sometimes then withdrawn) measures of this kind (Denmark, Finland, France or Hungary for instance).”
  • Front-of-pack (FOP) nutrition labelling schemes: “the industry is voluntarily applying the ‘Reference Intake’ system (formalized in the EU FIC regulation), while some countries have developed their own additional systems, like Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. France is also testing four different schemes. The data collected is currently being analyzed and, based on these, a recommended voluntary FOP scheme for France could be identified before the next governmental elections in May 2017.”

The action plan

The association oversees the success of its industries by encouraging the “safety, quality and taste of their products, while maintaining the culture and tradition of their origins,” the CAOBISCO representative tells us. It also aims to develop a business environment that helps companies meet the needs of their customers, as well as product compliance with national and European regulations. CAOBISCO also ensures raw material sourcing, and responsible product manufacturing, from an economic, environmental and social point of view.

When he started his two-year tenure last June, CAOBISCO president, Alessandro Cagli, set out the agenda for the association, focusing on collaboration, education and innovation. “We aim to be more involved and visible in the on-going debate concerning nutrition and health with a set of positive engagements and contributions from our members, while at the same time addressing all misconceptions and scientifically unfounded views regarding our products,” he said.

1.Collaboration

CAOBISCO alone cannot solve the issue of obesity, but it can be part of the solution: “There is no simple ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. A true society-wide effort and multi-stakeholder collaboration are needed to properly address this challenge,” says Valverde.

2. Education

The organization has developed a set of engagements on nutrition and health to be implemented based on a “menu” of options. “This means that each member can, according to what makes more sense for its product portfolio, choose to implement actions in one or more of the following areas:

-       Product composition,

-       Mindful eating,

-       Nutrition information,

-       Responsible marketing and advertising particularly to children,

-       Promotion of healthy lifestyles.”

Educating consumers is also key: “In addition to providing consumers with an increased range of small portions sizes (as it is done, for example with the ‘mini’ versions now on the market for a number of sweet products), we need to ‘nudge’ consumers to understand more clearly what is the right portion that they should consume,” she adds.

3. Innovation

“Our products enjoy a relatively steady growth, generated primarily by gaining new consumers, rather than by increased consumption by existing customers. But this is not possible without a clear commitment to continuously listen to what our consumers want and need. Therefore, constant innovation is the key to remain competitive in this market.”

Membership and benefits

CAOBISCO has three levels of membership: national associations in Europe, direct member companies, and affiliated member companies.

The national associations that are part of CAOBISCO represent Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands. “All our member associations are very different in size, structure and representation. For instance, Germany covers chocolate products, fine bakery wares, sugar confectionery products, brand ice cream, savory snacks, chewing gum and raw pastes,” Valverde tells us, while Italy represents pasta, breakfast cereals, chocolate and cocoa-based products, ice creams, sugar confectionery, biscuits and other fine bakery products.

Direct member companies include Barilla, Barry Callebaut, Ferrero, Kraft Foods, Mars and Nestlé.n countries where there is no national association or where the national association is not a member of CAOBISCO, the association has affiliated member companies, like Foster Clark (Malta) and Ion SA (Greece). “There are plans to develop this category in the future,” Valverde told us. 

You can read more in our print magazine European Baker & Biscuit (March/April 2017)! 

Related articles: 

Baking Industry Welcomes New Gluten-free Association 

Two American bakers' associations explore the possibility of merging 

Inaugural class of the US National Confectionery Association’s Future Leadership Program announced  

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