Leaders Forum: Tackling the big issues

Leaders Forum: Tackling the big issues

Katherine Rich Chief Executive NZ Food & Grocery Council
Katherine Rich
Chief Executive NZ Food & Grocery Council

I see three big issues dominating the food and grocery sector in 2015 – health & safety, the Government’s increased focus on obesity issues, and industry relations. Each presents its own unique set of challenges which will require positive collaboration across the industry if we are to make headway on them.

There’s no doubting that health & safety is in for a big shakeup by way of the Health and Safety Reform Bill, which should pass into law sometime around the middle of the year. It contains big changes which will require greater consideration of all health and safety risks in the workplace, including health and wellness.

It’s part of the Government’s ‘Working Safer’ blueprint, which is aimed at reducing workplace injuries and deaths by 25% by 2020. Leadership and action from businesses, workers and government will be needed to achieve that goal.

The food and grocery is already doing a lot in this regard. FGC’s Safety Working Group, which consists of representatives from The Warehouse, Countdown, and Foodstuffs, did excellent work last year on issues such as maximum carton weights, car safety, and improving the Safe In-Store pass. It’s now about to turn its attention to understanding the causes of accidents in-store, defining who has responsibility for what in-store, and finding a way to share learning from accidents.

Of course, a safe and alert staff is often a staff that is well and happy, and many member companies run programmes which promote both wellness and safety. Many FGC firms, such as Nestle, Mars and Johnson & Johnson, have impressive health and wellness programmes which are excellent examples for all in our sector. They cover a myriad of activities, education modules, and team events, and some are impressive in their inventiveness.

But despite this we need to do more as long as our industry remains near the top of serious-harm statistics. Latest official figures show that in 2013 there were 800 serious-harm incidents in the manufacturing industry, with nearly half of them occurring in food and beverage. That is not good enough and FGC will continue to make safety one of its priorities in 2015.

Obesity has been a hot topic of discussion for some years, with a variety of views on how best to tackle the issue. Prime Minister John Key and Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman are looking for the food industry to step up and do more.

Many FGC members already invest heavily in a range of community engagement projects to encourage people to make healthier choices. These include cooking and shopping skills, gardening, provision of breakfast, encouraging more people to engage in activity and sports, and strong support of the Heart Foundation’s fuelled4life programme, to name but a few. Many employ dietitians or nutritionists to advise on the profile of foods, and often this involves reformulating food to take account of sodium, sugar, fat, and increasing fruit, vegetables, and fibre, and developing low-cal options.

Significant work has been done over many years but we can go further.

Industry relations were in the spotlight in 2014 both here in New Zealand and across the Tasman. This focus will continue, but from an FGC perspective we will continue to positively engage with all retail partners for the benefit of our members, to ensure we have a good relationship with retailers. But there will always be constructive tension because that’s the nature of advocacy, and because of that it’s FGC’s job to raise issues that affect our members.


The annual Leaders Forum, featuring exclusively in the February edition of FMCG Business magazine, includes advice and industry updates from Ministers Nathan Guy and Jo Goodhew, Countdown and Foodstuffs Managers, FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich and Nielsen NZ Managing Director Rob Clark, to name just a few.

To subscribe to FMCG Business magazine please email: subscriptions@intermedia.co.nz , or contact the team: trubanowski@intermedianz.co.nz or thislop@intermedianz.co.nz

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