Judith van der Horst, Innovation Lead Food & Health: “We will make the healthy choice the easy choice”

Manufacturers, physicians, health insurance, the media, logistics, caterers, retailers, and consumer IT: all these parties are needed in order to achieve immediate and substantial progress towards making the healthy choice the easy choice, says Judith van der Horst, Innovation Lead Food & Health at Foodvalley NL: “We'll translate ideas into effective programs and projects.”

What makes innovation in Food & Health crucial in the transition to a sustainable food system?

“From children with obesity to people suffering with diabetes: around the world, including in my own neighborhood, there are so many people with nutrition-related diseases. Believing that most of them do want to eat healthily, but just don’t know how to manage this, has troubled me from an early age. It’s the reason why I began training in Biological Health Sciences at Maastricht University, in 1993, pursued by a PhD in Human Nutrition at Wageningen University and Research, and chose to dedicate my career to this issue. I am convinced that the global transition to a healthy and sustainable food system should make the healthy choice the easy choice. So we need to bring together as many parties as possible who share this ambition. Throughout my years of working in fundamental and applied research, but also in business roles such as product development, marketing and R&D, I got to know many players in the field of food and health. I gained a deep understanding of the various perspectives, I speak their language and, as such, am able to relate to a broad spectrum of stakeholders. I see myself as a bridge between business, academia, government and investors, and a bridge across borders. I also learned that, in the end, every party involved needs a valid business case to make the transition work.”

Why is Foodvalley NL involved in the transition?

“I believe we are a player that can make a real difference. In 2004, we began developing the Foodvalley ecosystem; an international collective of organizations and companies jointly working on the transition to a sustainable food system. I’m happy to put a lot of energy into strengthening and expanding this ecosystem. In the past few months I have contacted almost 200 different parties, from manufacturers to retailers, fast-food chains and caterers, explaining what we do and inquiring how we could support them, their partners and the ecosystem, in realizing their ambitions. I was impressed with how many existing initiatives already embrace making the healthy choice the easy choice. But I also noticed that, often, parties don’t work together, making the impact much less than it could be. I also learned that an innovative product or service should meet four requirements in order to be successful: it must be palatable, affordable, convenient and available. If not, the innovation will fail. This guides every step I take, here at Foodvalley NL.”

How will Foodvalley NL contribute to this transition?

“By bringing together manufacturers, physicians, health insurance, the media, logistics, caterers, retailers, and consumer IT. By choosing the leaders in these fields; supporting and respecting their ambitions, sharing ours and designing mutual ambitions for the ecosystem. All these parties are needed in order to make immediate and substantial progress towards making the healthy choice the easy choice. Together we'll translate their ideas into joint programs and projects, focusing on three key areas: 1. New Food Concepts and Positive Reformulations; 2. Healthy Food Environment; 3. Digital Intelligence in food and health, and Personalized Nutrition. On behalf of Foodvalley NL, I will take a coordinating role, ensuring that our shared ambitions give every party involved ample opportunity to develop their own business cases.”

Could you share some project examples to give a flavour of your work?

“With several stakeholders, who focus on Food and Health, we are organizing, in the Netherlands, a National Month of Health. In this initiative, over 20 parties - retailers, fruit and vegetable wholesalers, lifestyle physicians, social media influencers, scientists and government - will work together to stimulate consumer intake of fruit and vegetables, and to measure the impact on consumer health. Our role is to beat the drum for the transition and bring together supply and demand, as well as bringing in the fruit and vegetable suppliers and food manufacturers in this initiative. In December 2020 we began establishing baseline metrics. In January 2021 the interventions will start becoming visible, particularly in supermarkets.”

Who do you want to attract into the ecosystem?

“Our recent Food & Health Summit, and our many talks with participants in our global Foodvalley ecosystem, revealed that our Food & Health innovation development program is looking for more-intense collaboration between retailers, hospitality services, catering and health insurance companies. If you are involved in one of these areas, join Foodvalley NL so that, together, we make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

Want to know more?

Please contact Judith van der Horst, judith.vanderhorst@foodvalley.nl

In this interview series, eight members of the Foodvalley NL team share their ideas, ambitions and latest milestones in the transition to a sustainable global food system. Read the previously published interview of Edith Schippers, Chairman Foodvalley NL and of  Marjolein Brasz, Managing Director Foodvalley NL.  More interviews to come in the next coming weeks.

About Foodvalley NL
Shaping the future of food together: building and strengthening the Foodvalley ecosystem so that we can realize the transition to a sustainable global food system. That is Foodvalley NL’s mission. In this interview series, eight members of the Foodvalley NL team share their ideas, ambitions and latest milestones.

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