Close your eyes for a second and think about what good food and drink looks like – what do you see?
Maybe you thought of something from your childhood, a classic recipe, a cherished memory?
Perhaps it was a delicate pastry or a hearty stew.
Good food comes in many shapes and sizes. It supports your health, your lifestyles, the environment, food security, and jobs.
Good food for you
Are you a vegan? Vegetarian? Flexitarian? Pescatarian? Meat eater? Or perhaps all of the above depending on the day.
Whatever your diet, and whatever your reasons for choosing it, you need the food and drink products that enable it.
You might want cow’s milk on your cereal, or a plant-based alternative.
You might want to treat yourself with a bar of chocolate or dried apricots.
And as the cold of Winter sets in, you might be inclined to warm yourself with a hot cup of coffee or tea.
That’s all to say that good food supports your diet; good food supports your choices.
Food that saves you time
Imagine having to make your own fresh pasta and sauce tonight after work… from scratch.
If you’re a gifted cook it might take you under an hour but dried pasta and a ready-made sauce can give you a delicious meal in half the time, leaving you more time to do something else in your day.
Maybe you do have time tonight and want to cook from scratch. That’s great – especially if it means more fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet!
But you’ll probably need flour for your freshly-made pasta, some dried herbs for seasoning, and maybe a splash of wine for the sauce.
Want to turn it into a ragù? You’d best head down to the butchers then for a cut of meat… or just get that packet of minced meat out the fridge.
Good food provides you with convenience when you need it most.
Food that makes you smile
Whether it’s the refreshing relief of an after-work beer or the smile on a child’s face when their birthday cake arrives – good food and drink are a pleasure.
It’s the pride of an artisan, the cultural heritage that’s part of who we are.
Europe is a melting pot of amazing food. From German sausage, French cheese, Greek yoghurt, Belgian beer, to Italian pasta, and much much more.
Good food is a pleasure; good food is in our culture.
Good food for your health
Of course, good food looks like fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, and pulses. But there’s more to a healthy food system than just raw food.
Some foods can be fortified to add micronutrients – vitamins, minerals and others – to support your health.
Did you know that fortifying foods with vitamin D can help prevent common nutritional deficiencies, particularly in the winter months in some European countries? Milk is often fortified with vitamin D.
Vitamin B12 is one nutrient that vegans find hard to access with their animal-free diets and is therefore added to many vegan products as well.
In some parts of the world in fact, food fortification is a lifeline where diets are low on nutrients. For example, vitamin A is the leading cause of preventable blindness and stunted growth in children under five years old. Food manufacturers add it to flour, milk and dairy products, and plant-based fats too.
Good food provides these vital nutrients.
Find out more about the food processing industry’s efforts to fortify food in the fight against malnutrition below:
Food that’s safe
In our early beginnings, humans started using fire to make ‘good’ food: safe and edible.
Today, we still use heat to destroy harmful pathogens that spoil food, and other methods to remove certain natural toxins, such as aflatoxins found on agricultural crops like maize and peanuts.
Food is not good if it’s not safe. And if it’s not safe, it’s not food.
Food with reduced salt, fat, sugar…or not
For some individuals looking to cut down on their consumption of fat, salt, or sugar, good food might look like a low-fat cheese spread, semi-skimmed milk, or low- and no-sugar drinks, where innovations help to maintain taste and texture for discerning consumers.
Of course, good food can equally be the full fat and sugar versions – as long as it fits into a healthy and balanced diet that takes into account portion size and moderation.
Good food suits you.
Food for special diets
Good food can also be those foods which are made for special dietary needs. For example, allergen-free foods for people with lactose and gluten allergies or intolerances, or nut allergies.
Other examples of good food that enables special diets includes:
- Baby formula for women that are unable to or choose not to breast feed their children, and even special formulas for babies with unique medical needs.
- Sports drinks and energy bars to aid recovery and hydration during exercise.
- Specialised nutritional products to meet specific needs of patients recovering from serious illness.
Good food leaves no-one behind.
Good food for the environment
Globally, if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the US. This is a huge waste of resources.
Good food can therefore be food that lasts longer on our shelves, adding convenience and reducing food waste.
Bread, ham, and cheese are examples of products that can use antioxidants, cultures, and texturisers to stay on our shelf for longer and ensure a safe and secure food supply.
Canned, dried, and frozen fruit and vegetables are another great example of how we can provide consumers with highly nutritious foods that won’t rot or spoil any time soon.
Food that supports your values
Increasingly, consumers are choosing their diet based on the impact their food and drinks have on the environment.
Good food gives consumers this choice, catering for vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, pescatarians, meat eaters and all others alike.
Food that uses waste
Speaking of the environment, consumers, supermarkets, chefs, and food processors are making use of foods that would have gone to waste.
By taking advantage of (ugly) fruit and vegetables that consumers don’t want or by using every part of the foodstuff, from peels to seeds and leaves, we can develop new products and safeguard resource value.
In addition, one sector’s waste can be another sector’s raw material. Think of orange peels to make essential oils or oat husks to create green electricity, for instance.
Good food helps reduce waste and unlock a Circular Economy.
Good food for nutrition security
Food and drink are a fundamental part of life but sometimes people are unable to access what they need.
Good food is therefore food that is available during hardship.
To take a recent example, look at the food trucks going to Ukraine that have been loaded with infant formula, cereals, long-life milk, canned fruits and vegetables, tea and coffee, pasta and rice.
To take another example – good food is food that helped us get through the worst of the Covid pandemic. Think of your shelves at the height of Covid-19. Were they as packed with dried, canned, and long-life foods as mine?
Good food helps us through a crisis.
Good food for good jobs
Finally, good food – all described above – provides jobs and enriches our local communities.
Think of your local farmer, or the nearest butcher and baker, or of a small food manufacturing business or retailer.
Good food provides jobs that are the beating heart of many communities from farm to fork, both rural and urban.
Indeed there are 10 million farmers supplying 289,000 food manufacturing businesses that employ 4.5 million people in Europe. And 99% of these businesses are small and medium-sized themselves.
In fact, the food and drink processing industry buys some 70% of all EU agri-food produce.
Good food supports local communities.
Food processing for good
You may have noticed the common thread in this article.
Every single example of good food mentioned here, is provided by the processed foods industry.
It is good, processed food that supports your lifestyle choices, provides access to essential nutrients, enables environmentally-conscious choices, provides food security, and enriches our culture and communities.
Essential though the processed foods sector is, our industry also has significant health and environmental challenges to tackle.
That’s why FoodDrinkEurope recently launched its Action Plan for Sustainable Food Systems, to help the food and drink industry continue to provide good food while also moving towards net-zero emissions by 2050, fully sustainable packaging, and an ever-healthier Europe.