Plenary session speaker Loek Pijls, The Coca-Cola Company, on “Balancing Taste, Nutrition, Cost & Use”

Plenary session speaker Loek Pijls, Director, Nutrition Innovation – Global Scientific & Regulatory Affairs at The Coca-Cola Company, shares his mind on the thrilling topic that was this year’s plenary session : “Balancing Taste, Nutrition, Cost & Use”


“We all want to be able to do what we want to do, be smart, and feel good. We are all somewhat, and others more, aware of what we eat – and have a notion that what we eat & drink may influence our health and how we feel, now and later on. Then: to influence health via nutrition, food industry needs to offer products that people like, and look forward to consume. Its food industry’s role to provide foods that fit in a healthy diet, at a cost we can afford.

What is (un)healthy? Concerning how what we eat & drink impacts our health – and how not, we need to Mind The Gap between Consumers’ ideas (e.g. gluten-free) and what we actually from Nutrition science (e.g. more vitamin D). Good nutrition entails getting enough & not too much of all nutrients we need. So improving nutrition means: either consume more of what we may get not enough (e.g. fibre, vit D, fish, vegetables, fruits), or consume less of what we may get too much of (e.g. sat. fat, calories, salt, alcohol). The opportunity for outweighs by a factor 40 to 100 – consumers intriguingly believe it is the other way around. There is more distraction than ever before; more easily than ever before, anyone can put out an opinion to the world, at no cost, less critical than ever on its correctness, and without taking any responsibility – EFSA had to waste a lot of its resources on reviewing aspartame, again. We need to advocate objectivity in the nutrition debate, and relentlessly pursue what really matters, driven by the most valid insights possible.

As a farmer’s son, I tend to take a farmer’s point of view. Mindful that sowing comes before reaping, that we need to treat with care our soil and all of our environment, and that the grass does not grow faster if we pull it. Intrigued by society’s obsession with “low-hanging fruit”, which tends to neglect & let go waste the more numerous and much sweeter sunbathed high-hanging fruits. Having harvested leeks from the just not too frozen soil, and dug up asparagus before daybreak would fade their whiteness, I have a notion of the work and resources needed to produce our foods – wasting food is painful, in every possible way – and over a third of total waste happens in our very homes.”

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Nicolas Lechevallier

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