21 Jul 2023 — Foodvalley NL received an €800,000 (US$901,000) project grant from the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport for its Healthier Food – Innovate for Good Community. The community will work on solutions to improve the accessibility of food that positively contributes to health, aiming to support healthy consumption and help decrease malnutrition, targeting issues that require a system approach.
The community will consider aspects such as salt, sugar, saturated fat and fiber levels in food products to ensure these are in line with the Dutch National Approach to Product Improvement and other (inter)national dietary recommendations.
In this first of our two-part interview, we discuss how Foodvalley NL – an independent organization that aims to accelerate the transition of the food system – will build a healthier food community and the role of partnerships.
“We are thrilled with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The project subsidy is unique because the Ministry’s focus is often on cure and care and less on targeting prevention,” Judith van der Horst, innovation lead of food and health at Foodvalley NL, tells Nutrition Insight.
“We want to make the healthy choice, the easy choice, which is all about decreasing obesity and malnutrition, which are the big challenges we see in our society,” she continues. “To reach that ambition, we must change both the supply and demand side.”
The Healthier Food – Innovate for Good Community aims to launch its first international initiatives in late 2023.
System change needed
Van Der Horst explains that it is difficult for consumers to make healthy choices. “At the moment, nearly 80% of all products sold in retail are not contributing to health, and 91% of all products sold in out-of-home segments are not contributing to health.”
These figures refer to the Dutch market, but she adds they are similar in other European countries. Foodvalley NL takes a systems approach to change this situation.
“We always start with an ecosystem analysis. In the case of the healthier food community, we are conducting over 100 interviews with different actors in the ecosystem, from financial institutions to food retail, from the hospitality industry to food producers, asking: What could you do yourself to come up with a healthy food offer and what is hindering you?,” explains Van Der Horst.
Foodvalley NL combines the outcomes from these interviews to determine ecosystem challenges – issues that individual stakeholders cannot solve but must be addressed to create a healthy food offer.
“We combine all these elements from different stakeholders and make sure that we bring together the right pioneers and frontrunners in our community,” continues Van Der Horst.
“As practice leaders, we start concrete initiatives to lead to viable business models, ensuring new kinds of flourishing businesses by doing the right things that will change the food system.”
Van Der Horst explains that in previous communities Foodvalley NL built, the organization has taken a similar ecosystem approach. As stakeholder interviews are ongoing, she highlights that initial feedback has been positive as the interviewees foresee what the process could bring toward creating a healthier food environment.
“They are eager to work with other like-minded pioneers because they can feel a bit isolated when they work on these ecosystem challenges alone.”
Even if they work in different domains, she highlights that stakeholders can still learn from each other, for example, in the community meetings that Foodvalley NL organizes nearly every month.
“For people in these interviews, it is attractive to become a partner because we will support them so they can accelerate toward market access and have viable businesses sooner than they would be able to have on their own,” notes Van Der Horst, helping them build a competitive edge.
She adds that the Dutch Food Industry Federation also supports the new community. This representative of the Dutch F&B industry has 17 branch member organizations and around 400 partners who are encouraged to participate in Foodvalley NL’s new community.
In a different initiative, Foodvalley NL launched a voucher system to accelerate the commercial introduction of breakthrough innovations by small and medium-sized companies in the food, health and nutrition sectors.
Foodvalley NL’s healthier food community aims to bring together key international players from across sectors looking to work on increasing the supply of more nutritious foods. These include start-ups, corporates, retailers, manufacturers, non-profit organizations, knowledge institutions, financial institutions and investors.
Since Foodvalley NL aims for everybody to be able to make the healthy choice, it is vital to find partners that have the average consumer as a customer, explains Van Der Horst.
For consumers, price and taste are essential in their purchasing choices, she highlights. If companies can offer healthier products at a reasonable price, this will help transform the food system.
“Our healthier foods community will kick off by the end of the year or early next year, and now we are building that community. Now’s the time everybody can raise their hands to join,” Van Der Horst stresses.
For its new community, Foodvalley looks for partners in food retail, the hospitality industry and the food supply.
“We guide them toward the next steps that they should take in the future through these unlikely partnerships, provide support around facilities, entrepreneurship and global connections that they otherwise might not have,” Van Der Horst concludes.
By Jolanda van Hal
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