KENYA – The food and beverage industry must take the initiative on sugar reduction as a priority before the regulators take the initiative and control the sector, to the detriment of the industry and society.
This was the message that Bimal Shah, the CEO of Broadways Group, delivered during his speech to the delegates at the African Food Manufacturing & Safety Summit (AFMASS) Eastern & Central Africa Conference and Expo which took place in Nairobi, Kenya nearly two weeks ago.
The company launched their #BeSugarSmart campaign at the conference, an initiative that seeks to change the narrative, urging food and beverage processors to take the lead by formulating healthier food and beverage products for the population.
According to Bimal, the campaign has a number of goals: promote better health and quality of life; create awareness on the negative effects of sugar; to make Broadway be a thought leader and influencer in the Kenyan food space; and to place their Broadway bread as a healthier alternative.
Increasing economic growth and growth of food service industry will lead to a surge in sugar demand in Africa, hence the need for the sector to take the lead, according to Bimal.
“The concern to the industry is the recent regulatory initiatives by a number of countries to tax sugar.
The UK plans to introduce a sugar tax in 2018; Mexico introduced a sugar tax in 2014. Nearer home, South Africa is introducing a sugar tax in drinks in 2017,” he informed the forum.
The industry must take the lead and not wait for regulators to impose taxes on their products to produce healthier food, he urged.
“Although these taxes are currently targeted mainly at the drinks and confectionery industry, we believe that it will not be long before the regulators target mainstream food products, especially the baked goods,” he added.
The food industry grew 6% in 2015 in Kenya, according to the Kenya Economic Survey; the same is reflected in other countries, with food manufacturing having the highest growth rate in the manufacturing sector across most African countries, he informed the audience.
Despite the positive effects of the growth of the industry, lifestyle diseases have continued to rise in Africa due to changes in lifestyle and food habits, notes Bimal.
“Lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis accounted for 60% of death cases in 2007, approximately 46% of the global disease burden.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) approximates that the proportion of lifestyle diseases shall rise to 57% by 2020, taking into account the increase in world population,” he informed the delegates
“Manufacturers of processed foods like us ourselves should be urged to become more health conscious and to work towards the production of more healthier food products with low sugar, fat, cholesterol and salt,” he told the delegates.
Broadway Bakery has taken the initiative, he said, with the campaign urging the entire industry, public health regulators and the consumers to be aware of the debilitating health affects of high sugar foods, and to actively be involved in sugar reduction, be it in baked products, beverages or other food products.
The company plans to work with public health practitioners and other Government agencies during this campaign, he added. It has also committed to reducing the amount of sugar and other additives in its bread and flour as part of the campaign.
About AFMASS Eastern & Central Africa Conference & Expo
The AFMASS Eastern & Central Africa Conference & Expo is organized by FoodWorld Media Ltd, the publishers of the African food and beverage industry focused magazines Food Business Africa, Dairy Business Africa and Agri-Business Africa, among other publications.
The 2016 edition of the premier industry trade event took place at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies in Nairobi, Kenya from June 8-10, 2016.
The event brought together over 350 industry business leaders, suppliers to the food and beverage industry, Government regulators and NGOs involved in the food supply chain from Africa, Americas, Europe and Asia to deliberate on ways to improve food processing, food packaging and food safety, with a focus on Eastern and Central Africa.
The next AFMASS Eastern & Central Africa Conference & Expo is planned for March 22-24, 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya.
A few significant changes in 2017 will see the set up of one exhibition, but with two parallel conferences:
1) The African Food Manufacturing & Safety Summit (AFMASS) Conference will focus on the beverage; dairy; baking & snacks; fruit and vegetables; sugar and confectionery; meat; and other processed food sectors;
2) The newly introduced African Grains, Milling & Feed (AFGRAINS) Conference will cover the formulation, post-harvest management, processing, packaging and food safety in grains, milled products and animal feed.