No one size fits all
Positioning itself as a strong and successful chocolate, biscuit and confectionery EU association, with products enjoyed by consumers as part of a balanced diet, is one of Alessandro Cagli’s main aims as president of confectionery association Caobisco.
Starting his two-year tenure back in July, Cagli has set out a clear agenda for the association, focusing on collaboration, education and innovation. “We aim to be more involved and visible in the ongoing 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 explains.
With obesity levels rising and parents becoming more concerned about their children’s sugar and fat intake, it’s no surprise the main challenge facing the industry is exactly that – obesity. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), global obesity has more than doubled since 1980 and in 2014, 13 per cent of adults aged 18 and over were obese, while 41 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese.
Although Caobisco is working to make sure its products are positioned in the right way, Cagli believes it is through collaboration that the industry can help tackle the issue.
He notes that while Caobisco cannot solve the issue of obesity, it can provide a contribution through responsible producers and listening to stakeholders, adding, “We can be part of the solution”. Cagli explains, “We recognise the high levels of obesity in Europe, but there is no simple ‘one size fits all’ solution for that. A true ‘whole of society’ effort and multi-stakeholder collaboration are needed to properly address this challenge.”
Chocolate, confectionery and biscuit products are showing stable consumption levels in Europe, according to Cagli. “They are fundamentally about bringing pleasure and enjoyment to people. As such, they should be consumed in moderation, in the framework of a balanced diet and of an active lifestyle,” he notes.
As Caobisco members have quite diverse product portfolios, ranging from chocolate to biscuits and to sugar confectionery, the association has developed a set of engagements on nutrition and health to be implemented on the basis of what it calls a ‘menu of options’.
This, Cagli says, means each member can, according to what makes more sense for their products, choose to implement actions in one or more of the following areas:
- Product composition – innovation and review of current product formulations
- Mindful eating – increased range of small portion sizes, individually wrapped portions, resealable packs and visual representation of portions
- Consumer information – clear, fact-based nutrition information on and off the pack
- Responsible marketing and advertising particularly to children – implementing the ‘EU Pledge’ self-regulation and/or national initiatives with a similar aim
- Promotion of healthy lifestyles – encouraging healthy and active lifestyles for our employees, consumers and wider communities.
Cagli believes consumers are well aware Caobisco’s products are ‘treats’, but warned that a treat “has to taste like one”, or they will simply reject it.
He explains, “This means the margins for reducing sugar and fats in our products are extremely narrow. So, while there is some room to look at existing or new recipes, our sector can certainly give a much more significant contribution through small portions.”
Educating consumers how to use Caobisco products and in what frequencies is also key. “In addition to providing consumers with an increased range of small and reduced portions sizes for our products, we need to nudge consumers to understand more clearly what is the right portion that they should consume,” Cagli explains.
This, he says, can be done in various ways: through individually wrapped portions inside multipacks, labels, resealable packs and through a correct way of advertising and marketing the products themselves. For example, Ferrero markets its Kinder Bueno chocolate bars as a sharing product, with two individually wrapped bars.
In addition to this, Cagli believes limiting the amount of advertising to children is key to reducing obesity within the wider industry.
“We believe it is key that our products are marketed responsibly, i.e. to parents and gatekeepers rather than to children,” he notes.
Caobisco has adopted a recommendation in this sense to its members. The four major global and European producers in its sector – Ferrero, Mars, Mondelēz International and Nestlé – have been founding members of the EU Pledge, a European-wide self-regulation aimed at not advertising foods high in salt, sugar and fats, including chocolate and confectionery products, to children under 12 years of age.
While the confectionery market is in a relatively favourable position, Cagli believes it is important to innovate in order to remain competitive.
He explains, “Our products continue to 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.”