To boldly go where no food has gone before…
By Xavier Terlet, President, XTC 12/2008
Late 2006 saw the arrival of announcements for the European launch of ‘cosmetic nourishment’ products, like yogurt, clearly aimed at women and touting cosmetic virtues. According to some, this ‘beauty yogurt’ will find its way onto the list of dubious ‘great ideas’ stolen from Japan or elsewhere. Others will call it a stroke of genius heralding the yogurt of tomorrow.
The big news, actually, might lie elsewhere. Food manufacturers, especially the largest among them, have long been trying to meet the legitimate needs of consumers on the health and fitness front. Since good health and fitness are at least partly the result of good diet, food manufacturers obviously have an important role to play in what people eat.
But are they not overstepping their bounds by offering products whose primary claim is to reduce cholesterol or hydrate the skin? And what about the multinationals? Are they not overstepping theirs when they team up, as they have in a number of European countries, with the insurance giants to pass their products off as medication for which consumers can be reimbursed?
Regardless of the commercial fate of these hybrid innovations, one thing is certain: food manufacturers are not simply crossing a yellow line – after all, each one does what it wants within the limits of the law – they are clearly crossing over the border. They are entering unknown territory, where competitors have names like Sanofi or Pfizer, L’Oréal or Procter & Gamble. With all the means at their disposal, these competitors could easily invade the food aisles should they deem it in their interest to do so.
When that day comes, today’s big food manufacturers might regret the time when eating what just a matter of pleasure.