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Hein Deprez in favour of introducing a fat and sugar tax

Almost impossible to build a brand in the fruit and vegetable sector

During the first national food debate Hein Deprez from Univeg and Greenyard Foods began his talk with some facts. "Growing fruit and vegetables is the most sustainable form of food production in the world. No other consumer product that can be produced as sustainably as fruit and vegetables. To give an example: to produce one kilogram of tomatoes you need 150 litres of water. To produce one kilogram of meat you need 15,000 litres of water. Here is another example: today we could grow 700,000 kilos of tomatoes on one hectare, a high-quality product. If we wanted 700,000 kilograms of meat we would need 1000 hectares."

Breaking through perception
"Modern greenhouses are a net energy supplier for the future, not an energy consumer, as it is still perceived by many. Horticulture companies will deliver net energy to society. These realities are not recognized and acknowledged by consumers. We do not speak about these things often enough. How can we work on this? What do we need to do in order to create the right perception?" He also talked about the greenhouse effect. "That is a very big problem in the world. We grow tomatoes in a 'greenhouse'. The consumer then connects a conservatory with something unhealthy and life threatening. We have to break through this. We have to get across that greenhouses are sustainable."

Competing against the P & G's of this world
"We do know that fruit and vegetables are super healthy for you. Everyone is in agreement about that. It is said everyday by many different sources. There is a lot of diversity in fruit and vegetables, which take care of the necessary vitamins and minerals we need for our bodies. But the reality is that in today's world fruit and vegetable consumption has dropped 5 to 10% in the last 10 years. Sometimes fruit and vegetables have been used as decoration on the table instead of as something to consume. Or we forgot to teach our children that if there is a spot on your apple you can just cut that part off and still eat it. The awareness is slowly growing, and that is very positive. But consumption is still falling. Why? One important answer is that we have to fight against products from big multinational food companies. Products from the Unilevers, Danones, Nestlé's and Proctor and Gambles of this world. A child as small as two years old can open a plastic wrapper with no problem, he knows perfectly well what is inside: something salty or something sweet. He knows the product in advance. Fats are also very interesting, they are a pleasure to eat." A few years ago I had a discussion with Frank Riboud, former CEO of Danone.
He showed an interest in working together by, for example, lowering the sugar level in their products. "But," he said, "give us ten to twenty years. It has taken us 30 to 40 years to get our customers addicted to our products. If we put the type of sugar in that was used 40 years ago consumption will collapse. So give us the opportunity to wait for our customers to slowly lose their addiction."

Health: something to worry about later
"We are still eating unhealthy products," he continues, "There is something that keeps pushing us towards sweet, salty and fat. That short term pleasure is something that you experience immediately and it is an added benefit for the consumer. We don't see health for years. It is not tangible, therefore it is a worry for later. Today I feel good so I will continue to consume. It is extremely challenging to change how people think. It is also a huge challenge to convince people that they are not only hurting themselves, but also society. Society is paying the bill for the future. Is this going to be affordable in the future?


"I have also noticed that the big food producers have an important weapon: the power of the media. I believe this is the main reason for their continued (and growing) success in selling unhealthy food." He can imagine people asking why they don't do this with fruits and vegetables. "That is something I have thought about every day for 25 to 30 years. How will we promote our product? What will we advertise? Which fruits and vegetables? How will we finance an advertisement budget if we don't know if the consumers will consume out fruits and vegetables. We have no brand. We cannot identify our product. We need support from the government. That is the only right way to promote fruits and vegetables in general. Targeted marketing can only happen when you have a brand." According to him we do not know very many fruit and vegetable brands. "A few, such as Chiquita and Pink Lady most people know, but beyond that it is difficult. Chiquita delivers year round bananas from one place. There is constant quality and stability. That is how you can build a brand. Without this it is almost impossible to build a brand. People want to know exactly what they are getting with a brand. That is what they get at, for example, McDonald's. There are no surprises. Consumers are indoctrinated through advertisements that the product being sold is constantly the same. But nature is not constant, it is diverse. Normally, a person should be able to enjoy diversity and variety. We have unlearned that. That is why it is so difficult to build a brand in the fruit and vegetable sector. The uniformity and standardization of ingredients has brainwashed consumers. Diversity is necessary for healthy living, and it prevents obesity."

Fat- and sugar tax
"The food industry has also caused massive amounts of CO2 emissions and huge pollution. All things that have not been factored into the price. A lot of products are produced with substitutes, like sugar. On top of this they create a massive amount of damage to society, to the future. It creates a huge nutritional paradox. Obesity goes hand in hand with malnutrition. Malnutrition occurs when your body is not getting the basic nutrients that it needs. I think we need to convince the government to enact the fat and sugar tax as soon as possible. It is a common principle of cost. The party that creates the cost, must be responsible for it. The government must regulate that and a tax will do so. The funds generated from this tax must be used by the government to create a shift in the public's thinking. These revenues should be used for the provision of a healthy diet based on fruits and vegetables. Next, the food pyramid should be changed: the base should be fruits and vegetables. Change it! Never speak differently about healthy food and teach our youth in this way. We have to brainwash the youth. Healthy eating is a lifestyle that creates a high quality of life for the long term. The youth of today are the policy makers of tomorrow. Don't invest energy in the elderly, they have strong habits. Invest in the youth!

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