New association urges industry to profit from ecological thinking

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food industry, Food, Industry

The food industry can clean up its image, benefit the environment, and become more profitable while doing so, says the founder of a new trade association, the Ecological Food Manufacturers Association (EFMA).

EFMA has been formed in response to consumer concerns about food industry conduct, and its founder, Winston Riley, is now looking to get manufacturers on board.

Riley comes from a food science background – he was the founder and first president of the Research Chefs Association. He is also a long-standing green campaigner who says that there is no point in simply criticizing the industry; progress can only be made by engaging its members in discussion and debate.

Riley told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “The idea is that this is a groundswell. This is a consumer-driven trend. I am concerned about our food industry when you think about it in terms of sustainable business practices.

“…Our association is really responding to the consumer and then working with manufacturers to learn. I have always worked with the food industry but I want to help them make more money by doing the right thing.”

It is this dual emphasis on the environment and profit that he hopes will spark the interest of food manufacturers. He says that it makes sense for manufacturers to think about cutting costs through better, more responsible use of energy, more efficient distribution, and by producing less waste.

“We’ll work together to explore all the ways that manufacturers can do this… I understand that the way to get people involved is to talk to them about making more money,”​ he said. “When you get together and work as a group it’s the power of minds.”

Bigger than organics

Riley resists the idea that a foods manufactured according to ecological ideals could only provide food for the wealthy, an idea that he says has been perpetuated by high premiums on organic food.

“It’s about something bigger than organics,”​ he said. “You can be an ecological food company without being organic…I would never say that this is an elitist thing. Everyone is welcome to join but just because someone joins doesn’t mean anything.There’s joining the association and then there’s doing something with what you learn.”

Eventually, Riley would like to see EFMA products carrying an independently certified seal so consumers know they have been produced in an ecological manner, but he admits that at this stage this is still theoretical. The idea, though, is that EFMA products will be based on three basic consumer-led demands: “The first thing that foods should be is safe, after that they should be nutritious and then they should be ecological,”​ he said.

The ideas behind EFMA may have been sparked by the consumer, but Riley said it is now up to industry to take the lead.

“Why don’t we work from within the industry and let it crackle out from within? Consumers are asking for it, so we know consumers will buy it. It’s a real no-brainer.”

Related topics: Organics, Suppliers

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