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Women´s networking breakfast at Fi Europe 2022
FoodBev Media

FoodBev Media

25 October 2022

Women´s networking breakfast at Fi Europe 2022

They are focused, purpose-driven and creative: women in the food industry. Three of them give a clear statement about why gender equality, building a personal network and female leadership are so important. For those who are looking for inspiration, the women´s networking breakfast on 7 December on-site at Fi Europe is a great opportunity. Tickets can be easily booked when registering to attend Fi Europe.

Heather Granato Vice president of partnerships and sustainability, Food EMEA at Informa

The food/ingredients industry wasn’t a ‘natural’ fit for a journalism major. However, I was fortunate that my first role out of university was as an entry-level editor with New Hope – writing for Natural Foods Merchandiser and working on Natural Products Expo. Through the decades, that initial dive into the B2B market for food and nutraceutical ingredients has broadened and deepened, allowing me to learn and share more about the ingredients, applications and science.

While the industry has changed through the years, it still has so much opportunity to expand to be more inclusive in every way. Considering women are the primary purchasers of household goods—including foods, beverages and food supplements – why not take the opportunity to bring those perspectives to the boardroom and the product development lab? The food/ingredients space is a dynamic one that offers the opportunity to find both professional fulfilment and insights that will impact a person’s personal health and life choices. It’s an industry that makes a tangible impact on the lives of your family and friends and impacts the health of our planet. For companies, hiring people with an understanding of the purchase motivations and personal passions can help in product ideation, marketing insights, go-to-market strategies and much more.

Further, I believe the food ingredients industry must achieve gender equity and parity across the supply chain. This means companies must be proactive in driving change across their organisations, from their hiring techniques through mentoring and talent development, to management training and networking opportunities. To achieve gender parity in the food ingredients space, it is important that all people are welcome at the table. Building interconnected networks will ultimately lead to greater change than focusing on women alone.

In fact, we have many opportunities to identify barriers and challenges, and then find ways to address them collectively. For example, across the nutraceutical space, there has been a conversation for years about perceived gender disparity. At the end of 2021, a group of motivated industry members came together to identify the challenges and set a path forward. I’m honoured to be the founding president of the non-profit Women In Nutraceuticals (WIN), which officially launched in September 2022. WIN is focused on gender parity in the nutraceutical space – from ingredient suppliers to finished CPG goods, and related services, with the goals of increasing the number of women in leadership positions, funding for women-led businesses and more women in science and research.

Suzane Leser Director of nutrition communication, Gelita

I credit playing sports from an early age for inspiring me to go and have the career I always wanted in the food industry. Experimenting with the benefits of nutrition and food supplements, I developed a genuine fascination with the versatility of foods and how they affect the body. So, I graduated in human nutrition and dietetics. Right from the start, my first job was in the sports nutrition supplements industry.

This all happened in Brazil, my home country, in the 2000s. The key to my early career was gaining as much practical experience as possible, learning from others and building a network. Also, keeping in touch with the growing international issues in nutrition, such as food security, environmental impact and mounting regulations, gave me tremendous confidence in the food industry as the platform in which to build a meaningful career in nutrition. I wanted to make a greater impact.

With the help of a scholarship, I moved to Europe for my master’s studies in sports nutrition. Exciting work opportunities in the food industry have opened up to me, one leading to another, and a second master’s degree in food regulatory affairs. Today, as I reach the peak of my career, my main advice is that we must always be learning on the job, from the team and professional networks. In parallel, I regularly invest in continuing professional development to help me reflect on my practice and build new on-demand skills – so important in today’s rapid pace of change.

Nutrition still is largely a female-dominated profession, where most graduates go on to pursue careers in research or in clinical practice. Individual motivations aside, I highly encourage women in nutrition to consider exploring career options in the food industry. I firmly believe that nutrition is still an expanding field within the food industry, rarely used to its best capacity. I observe that the food industry has superbly improved its food science and technology capabilities, but less so its nutrition know-how. A largely unfilled space still exists here for women to make an impact.

There is still a lot to do to improve the nutritional profile of foods through nutrition-led innovations, creatively use nutrition at the core of marketing and communications initiatives, strengthen the legal health claims landscape, and foster more well-informed debates on issues concerning food and nutrition policy. There is a golden opportunity for women in nutrition to help develop a good reputation for the food industry on current issues concerning the best use of our food resources for optimal health.

Networking events are extremely valuable to move women’s careers forwards in the food industry. They put energy and momentum behind the best ideas, as well as create the environment for professionals to coach each other on the skills necessary to realise the common goals that will take the industry to the next level. The truth must be said – nutrition schools rarely prepare professionals to thrive in business and commercial environments. But the beauty of the food industry is that it is highly interdisciplinary. Hence building a professional network is essential for everyone’s learning curves, as we are challenged by different points of view, exchange broad experiences and get inspired by other people’s skill sets.

Working home-based, I take care to dedicate at least a third of my time to networking both internally with colleagues, and externally by visiting and socialising with customers and partners, as well as attending industry events and trade association meetings. I describe my work in the food industry as constructive, enlightening and, above all, purposeful. The one thing I wish I had known before embarking on my career was how an all-around professional we must be. So, my word of advice to any woman thinking of entering the industry is to keep a professional development plan that goes beyond nutrition science to investing in building good communication skills, business acumen and a diverse network.

Behnaz Shakersain Scientific affairs manager, AstaReal AB

I have always been interested in food as one of the vital pillars of human survival.

My undergraduate education was in clinical nutrition, where I got to learn about the importance of food and eating patterns in human health and diseases. To broaden my knowledge about global health-promoting food and nutrition policies and how science in the field can be turned into guidelines and practical applications, I pursued a master’s in public health nutrition. This was later followed by a PhD in medical sciences with a focus on how dietary choices can impact the development of brain-related complications later in life.

With all respect for, and recognition of the value of academic science and research, the lack of tangible outcomes, or better to say application of those scientific findings in real life, was a moving-forward force for me to join the industry.

I started my industry career as a nutritionist and then moved into being a liaison between technical/scientific and commercial. I have been long involved in educational and scientific communications, trying to raise awareness of food quality, as well as healthy and sustainable nutritional solutions. The undeniable role of food in health and wellbeing, along with ever-growing global food shortages, creates a need for smart and alternative food/ingredient sourcing.

As a scientific affairs manager, I currently focus on science applications in developing new, more sustainable products and nutraceutical solutions to promote better-lasting health in humans and animals.

One general challenge in today’s world is the gap between academia, research and industry. Misalignments between these sectors are a major hurdle to an efficient up-scaled implementation of science and innovation in the food and ingredients industry. To be honest, just after I joined the industry, I realised how much I previously underestimated such a gap. I try now to contribute to building and strengthening the bridge. Of course, there are scientists and academic researchers who believe in the efficacy of cooperation and are eager to help fill in the gap.

Today, women are not merely the caretakers of children and older family members. They are actively present in every corner of most societies and keep fighting for equity. They are proven to be influential and successful in many positions and in most sectors, including the food and nutraceutical industries. In my opinion, the major characteristics leading to their success are that women are curious by nature, they pay attention to details, and this enables them to have a better understanding of a situation or a matter; they show more empathy. The latter ‘skill’ makes it easier for women to connect and listen with care to others, and that in return broadens their perspective which can be helpful in finding solutions to complex problems. Women are generally rated higher in interpersonal skills. Top executive, leading and management positions need such capabilities.

I remember a while ago I read about research findings discussed by the Harvard Business Review, that showed “companies with more women in senior positions are more profitable, more socially responsible, and provide safer, higher-quality customer experiences”. Women are good at seeing and pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities in the food industry, even though they are still underrepresented. I think everyone agrees that most decisions about food purchases, meal preparations and planning within families are done mainly by women. Being in such close exposure to food on a daily basis and feeling responsible for contributing to a healthful meal for their families is a natural inspiration for many to be curious about food production and technology advancements. This is a key to success in this field.

I would deeply encourage women to never set any limitations on their dreams. Dreams are our main force and motivation to move forward. As long as we believe in our own capabilities, we do not need to prove anything to anyone else but ourselves. In whatever career path we step in, we should never stop learning and pursuing more knowledge. Don’t be afraid of making your voice heard and your presence felt.

Women’s networking breakfast 2022

This year’s women’s networking breakfast puts sustainability at the forefront, exploring the ways in which women are transforming the global food system for the sake of safeguarding the future of our planet and our people. The world is constantly changing, and the global food system is facing new challenges every day, from navigating the long-lasting impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, to supply chain issues fuelled by the Ukraine war and the looming climate crisis. These challenges require new and innovative solutions, demanding food system stakeholders to look beyond profit and incite purpose-driven action. From farm to fork, women are leading the way, by taking actionable steps towards improving the efficiency, sustainability, and resilience of the global food value chain.

Showcasing the female food professionals who are making waves in the global food system and futureproofing our planet, the Women’s Networking Breakfast will consist of two panel discussions featuring a selection of the industry’s leading voices as well as a series of dedicated networking activities. The first session will focus on building a sustainable food system, highlighting the women who are trailblazing the future of food. While the second will advise on how to build a sustainable food business, arming food professionals with practical advice about how to build and run successful diversity and inclusion strategies.

Attendees can expect to hear from and connect with a selection of the industry’s brightest minds and key stakeholders striving to build a more sustainable food system. The event is open to male and female professionals and will take place in person on the morning of 7 December 2022, on day 2 of Fi Europe 2022.

Find out more.

Running order

8:00 – doors open Arriving and coffee

8:20 – 8:30 – Welcome from sponsor Ten-minute opening speech from Isabelle Renault, regional vice president EMEA at DSM

8:30 – 9:10 Session 1 Roundtable Discussion Building a sustainable food system: Women trailblazing the future of food

Speakers: Saskia Hoebée, senior associate, Five Seasons Ventures Mathilde Jakobsen, CEO and co-founder, Fresh.Land

9:10 – 9:30 – Networking session

9:30 – 10:30am Session 2 Roundtable Discussion Building a sustainable food business: Spotlight on inclusivity and diversity

Speakers: Jon Poole, director, Step Change Development Isabelle Renault, regional vice president EMEA, DSM

10:30am – 11:00 am Closing // networking

#FiEurope #FIE #Informa #women

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