28. August 2019
Interview with Erin Boyd Kappelhof
Sustainable diets? Everything comes down to the consumer.
By Sarah Liebigt
It’s about meeting consumer demand, says nutrionist and Managing Partner at Eat Well Global, Erin Boyd Kappelhof, and furthermore: The problems we are facing are anything but simple. With Farm & Food she talked about what tomorrow’s food system should look like; and how sustainable diets can actually safe the planet – and be tasty at the same time.
Farm and Food: If you were to categorize Eat Well Global: Are you influencer, enabler or networker?
Erin Boyd Kappelhof: First and foremost, Eat Well Global is an enabler as our primary mission is to empower global change agents in food and nutrition. One of the many ways we achieve this, however, is through a substantial amount of networking across geographies and disciplines. That’s the only way we can truly understand today’s most pressing issues and how our clients can best address them.
How does good nutrition become good business?
Consumers all over the world increasingly want delicious, accessible, affordable food that also happens to be good for their health and good for the planet. The organizations that are best positioned to provide the kinds of foods that tick all of these boxes will be successful in the long run. It’s about meeting consumer demand.
How do thriving for sustainable diets and improving people’s health go together?
A truly sustainable food system must address many things – not only the environmental factors, which, of course, are fundamental. The FAO’s definition of sustainable diets are those “with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets must be protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.” It’s quite complex, but the bottom line is that a diet or food system that fails to consider all of these factors is not actually sustainable.
The agricultural and food production system has dozens of stakeholders, consumers included, of course: who or which part of it are you targeting today?
At the end of the day, everything comes down to the consumer. But we primarily target credentialed professionals who hold scientific integrity in high regard. For example, nutrition experts like dietitians; physicians, nurses or other healthcare professionals; credentialled fitness professionals, etc. We also engage with important stakeholders like trained chefs, health bloggers, NGOs or consumer groups – depending on the topic – because these groups also play an important part in tackling topics related to food, health and sustainability, within their own spheres of influence.
How do you see the role of animal sourced Food in future sustainable diets?
Despite the growing plant-based movement, animal-sourced foods are not going away. However, I do believe animal agriculture will become even more sustainable because our planet depends on it and consumers demand it. We’re already seeing this happen in many animal agricultural sectors. Still, in many populations, people are consuming too many calories or eating too many foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar or salt. And as a dietitian, of course, I encourage people to eat more plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and legumes. But animal-sourced foods also deliver important nutrients that can be particularly essential to vulnerable populations and certain age groups, so I think some of the messages for entire populations to eliminate all animal foods are overly simplistic and can even be dangerous. Animal agriculture also forms the cultural and economic core of many societies and communities around the world. People are becoming more discerning about where their food comes from, how it’s produced and what impact that production has on the environment and local communities – which is great. As a result, we see much closer attention being paid to concepts like sustainable intensification, or the increase in agricultural yields without adverse environmental impacts. I’m encouraged by these types of thoughtful, yet longer-term solutions with regard to animal-sourced foods because the problems we’re trying to address are anything but simple.
What are you doing to identify country-specific situations or problems?
Whenever we begin working with a client on a new initiative that has a country-specific element, we always go directly to the source. We have experts on the ground in markets all over the world who provide strategic insights on local issues, nutrient concerns, food trends, and even the regulatory framework. Understanding this local landscape is always step one to developing or disseminating any kind of solution.