Health is a fixed theme in our product development
Interview with Fredrikke van Helden

Of the eight most expensive diseases that each cost the Dutch over one billion Euros each, four are food-related, is what I read in a publication, Reference Healthy & Sustainable Food. “That is really worrisome”, says Fredrikke van Helden, Innovation Manager Marketing for Van Geloven and Chairman of the snack producer’s CSR coordination group. “We are proud to take good steps in making our range healthier. We pay attention to transparency in order to allow consumers to make a responsible choice based on their own situation. 

Van Geloven is of the opinion that it is fine to enjoy snacks sometimes. There is nothing wrong with that within a varied and balanced diet. However, a large group of people have difficulties with variation and balance as they are unclear on what is healthy or not. “This is worrisome. We must resolve this social issue together. We take our responsibility in this aspect”, says Fredrikke. “We make our products healthier and we communicate with transparency in order to help people make a responsible choice.”

Making the range healthier is done in two ways within Van Geloven: adjusting the ingredients and innovating the range. The starting point in the development, whether developing a new product or updating an existing product, of each new brand product is the Green List. This lists all super statutory criteria that the Van Geloven products must fulfil at corporate and brand level in clear terms. This includes standards relating to fat, salt and other content, as well as absolute requirements for ingredients, such as no modified soy, using free-range eggs and no artificial flavours, fragrance and colourants. If Van Geloven sets a standard at corporate, it applies for both the brand products and the private label snacks produced by the company. Furthermore, supplementary criteria may be applied to private labels in consultation. As far as ingredients are concerned, introducing iconic snacks like croquettes, frikandel sausages and hamburgers without artificial flavours, fragrance and colourants is a real milestone. Our country is good for consumption of about 600 million frikandel sausages per year. This makes it the number one snack in the Netherlands, with the croquette as the runner-up. “As a major player in the snack market, we feel it is important to have a vision and implement a policy in terms of using flavours, fragrance and colourants. Now that core snacks have been successfully revised, we are working on other snacks. The expectation is that 100% of our snacks sold via the supermarket channel (Mora and Hebro) will be available without any artificial flavours, fragrance and colourants in about three or four years. Naturally, we also want to implement the same development in the out-of-home channel for Mora products”, says Fredrikke, all fired up. The oil that Van Geloven uses in its snacks is all of vegetable origin, containing at least 70% unsaturated fat. Van Geloven has used 100% Book and Claim* palm oil since 2010, and from late 2014 it will switch to 100% segregated palm oil for its total palm oil requirement. Segregated** palm oil means that the sustainably produced pal moil in the entire chain is separated from palm oil from non-sustainable production. “Some customers wants to upscale to the Mass Balance*** level in the near future, aiming for segregated just like us.


20% less salt
Another major development can be found in Van Geloven’s salt reduction policy. The company observes the agreements made between AKSV (Algemene Kokswaren en Snackproducenten Vereniging, General Cookware and Snack Producers Association) and FNLI (Federatie Nederlandse Levensmiddelen Industrie, Federation Dutch Foodstuffs Industry) in 2006, i.e. a 20% salt reduction towards 2015 compared to the 2006 NEVO table values.

Van Geloven defined absolute standards for 2015 which the company also enforces. At the time, several of the company’s products were already below the NEVO table values for sodium. Van Geloven currently complies with the absolute standards as an average. In the meat snacks and spring roll segments, the snack producer’s sodium values are below AKSV’s in total. “When reducing the sodium values, we started with the highest-volume products, i.e. products with the largest consumer span. That are mainly Mora products in the retail channel”, explains the Innovation Manager. “Our target is now to focus on the individual ‘outliers’ and bringing them down to the 2015 target. In particular in our out-of-home products, we have a way to go.” 

Still tasty even with less meat or no meat at all
In addition to renovating snacks by updating the ingredients, Van Geloven is focusing on innovation of its range. A good example of this is the introduction of Mora Veggie satay in 2013. “That is a satay with no meat”, says Mora icon Cora van Mora in the commercial. Vegetarian satay skewers is what is meant. Innovation Manager Fredrikke explains: “Meat is a basic ingredient of our products. However, we see it as our responsibility to also provide tasty products to our consumers that have not as much meat, or no meat at all. It is more sustainable and just as tasty.  Apart from 100% vegetarian products, which even have the Vegetarian Society certification, we are coming up with products that are based mainly on vegetables combined with cheese and spices. In 2014 we worked all out at developing a new concept that we launched mid-2015 under the name Happas. These are mini dishes that go perfectly with drinks but can also be part of a delicious meal made up of various small snacks.”


Preparation outside the frying pan
Happas are an example of products that can only be prepared in the oven. Van Geloven encourages preparation that does not involve deep frying by increasingly launching products which can be prepared in the oven. Snacks prepared in the oven do not absorb any extra oil. This is appreciated by consumers and catering entrepreneurs alike. However, when fried in the right conditions, some products hardly absorb more fat. Fredrikke continues: “We cannot state that it is always healthier to prepare snacks in the oven rather than deep-frying them. We think that preparing snacks in the oven is mostly about convenience to the consumers and entrepreneurs who does not have or want a deep-fryer.”It is no coincidence that many products under the Mora brand can be prepared in the oven as well as in a deep-fryer. In 2014, Mora launched the oven frikandel sausage because normal frikandel sausages are not suited to preparation in the oven. Mora added oven croquettes and round oven croquettes to the range in 2015. These snacks cannot be prepared in a deep-fryer. “By focusing entirely on the oven when it comes to preparing foods, we can make a huge step in terms of the quality of the dining experience. Our oven croquettes and round oven croquettes are truly crispy while keeping their smooth and creamy ragout”, according to Fredrikke.  From the time the air-fryer was first introduced, Van Geloven has been working together with Philips to draw attention to alternative ways of preparing food using hot air. This is a method that is gaining ground vis-à-vis deep frying simply because it offers convenience without any unwanted kitchen odours. 


Fanning the flames
“In the coming years, we will not relent in continuing to increase sustainability in our company and our range”, says Fredrikke with commitment. “We are on fire now. We have support within the organisation. I see it as my personal challenge to keep fanning the flames in the employees, ensuring that the CSR concept becomes part of everyone’s daily routine.” For further sustainability, Van Geloven continues to act from its own, sometimes opinionated convictions, following the needs of consumers and customers. Also, the company attaches importance to the vision of other major stakeholders, both inside and outside the chain, because it is important to know how stakeholders perceive our company.”

* Book & Claim (B&C): A certificate indicates production of one ton of sustainability produced, certified palm oil. Plantations that are certified in accordance with the RSPO standard can offer GreenPalm certificates and sell them to companies to use it for sustainable coverage of their palm oil use.

** Segregation (SG): Sustainable palm oil from various certified plantations is separated from regular palm oil throughout the entire chain.

*** Mass Balance (MB): Sustainable palm oil from certified sources is administratively monitored throughout the chain, but may be mixed with regular palm oil.