To us, transparency means opening the door
Interview with Fredrikke van Helden

“Transparency is a key theme within Van Geloven’s CSR policy”, says Fredrikke van Helden, Innovation Manager Marketing for Van Geloven and Chairman of the snack producer’s CSR coordination group. “To us, transparency means literally opening the doors. We appreciate dialogue. We like to understand how our customers and other stakeholders view our brands and CSR-related subjects. 

Due to social media and the use of smart phones, everyone expects to be able to look up any thinkable information, and themes are discussed online. Additionally, customers and stakeholders ask clear and honest information on, for example, the origin of ingredients and the organisation’s sustainability policy. This is why Van Geloven opens the door in various ways. One example is facilitating plant visits for students, journalists and the employees’ families. Various TV shows recorded the company, for example the Dutch TV shows Proefkonijnen, Hart van Nederland and Wouters & Waes in Belgium. Food and lifestyle bloggers met Van Geloven at an external location for dialogue and inspiration. Another example is the co-creation project in Belgium together with JIM, a youth channel. Young people were given the opportunity to specify online what their favourite snack should look like. In a few steps, five concepts were developed in a triangular collaboration between JIM-young people-Mora. The young people voted for their most preferred idea and this concept was brought to the market in 2015: the JIM-Mora Stache! View the video to get an impression of how the process worked. “And naturally, this CSR annual report is in itself also an example of transparency”, says the Innovation Manager. “We want to show who we are, what people may expect relating to CSR and the challenges we are confronted with in our CSR policy.

The door is always open to customers and we always feel it is important to also listen to other stakeholders. In relevant themes, Van Geloven imposes superstatutory requirements, and meets wishes concerning product development and communicates. “Some customers for which Van Geloven develops and produces a private label product, ask explicitly for sustainable palm oil or sun flower oil without flavour enhancers, a specific salt standard, or the use of sustainable soy. We take this into account,” says Fredrikke. Meanwhile free and naturally with Van Geloven, the use of free-range eggs is questioned. The company expects the mass balance* requirement for palm oil to become increasingly hot for customers. Van Geloven switched completely to segregated** palm oil at the end of 2014. “We do one step beyond what was asked, but we choose to do this. It is a highly relevant theme to our customers and in terms of availability and affordability it is acceptable. Also, it gives us a competitive edge”, says Fredrikke.

Detailed product information
Also figuratively speaking, Van Geloven opened the door years ago with detailed, superstatutory reports on nutritional values, allergens and the nutritional guideline (GDA) on the Mora packaging. This is also featured on the website and the digital product information platform PS in food service (for out-of-home customers; but it is also consulted by other stakeholders). An example is stating the RI (Reference Intake, previously GDA (General Daily Amount)) on virtually all Mora packaging. Only packaging too small to fit the supplementary details in addition to the statutory information do not state the extra information.

Also in stating extensive nutritional values including the quantity of sodium / salt in these products and printing the allergens in bold shows that Van Geloven goes beyond statutory requirements - we have done this for years.
Most of these elements are not mandatory until 2015, when all products must comply with the new European declaration legislation (the new European Regulation ‘Provision of Food Information to Consumers’ - > Regulation EU Nr. 1169/2011.). Stating the RI is still not a statutory requirement, but if included, it must be done in a specific format.
In order to enable vegetarians and flexitarians to make a sound, reliable choice, Van Geloven has the vegetarian products officially certified by the Vegetarians Association. As proof of certification, the company includes the European quality label for vegetarian products (EVU logo) on the packaging.

Open communication between departments
In addition to external transparency, Van Geloven also aims for internal transparency. “Traditionally, our business is fairly tight-lipped. Our challenge is to become more transparent. Externally, but also internally. We are learning every day. It is something we really do together”, says Fredrikke. “Also based on the CSR concept, optimal open communication between departments is a priority. An example is the ‘Green List’.” This lists all superstatutory criteria that the Van Geloven products must fulfil at corporate and brand level in clear terms. This list is updated with new starting points and wishes that the company adopts in the context of the strategic CSR concept. When innovating or renovating products, this list is the starting point for all departments. “If we are transparent towards each other, we can better understand each other and better help making the business more sustainable, which is essential today. To give an example, a marketeer is unable to market a product not knowing what is in it and where it comes from. That is why connecting with Procurement, for example, is of vital importance. In my role, I aim to get people and departments in touch with each other in order to enable them to rise to challenges together, as an integral whole. Whenever I accomplish that, it gives me a warm feeling”, concludes the Chairman of the CSR coordination group.

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

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