Mr Amit Banati, President of Asia Pacific Kellogg Company, was elected FIA’s new President by the General Assembly at the FIA Annual Meeting on 29 April 2014. A member of his company’s Global Leadership Team, Mr Banati has worked extensively across the Asia Pacific region, including in Australia, India, China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia and Singapore.

Prior to joining Kellogg Company in March 2012, Mr Banati has served in senior positions with Kraft Foods, Cadbury Schweppes and Procter & Gamble.

As he prepares to take on the role of FIA President, Mr Banati shared with the FIA Secretariat his priorities for this year and what he hopes to achieve in his tenure.

FIA: Congratulations on your new role as President. What are your priorities for the year ahead?
Mr Banati:
It’s an honour to have been elected President of FIA. The organisation has grown substantially over the last four years, laying a very solid foundation for us to build on in the year ahead.

FIA is committed to working alongside its members, and other stakeholders to promote healthy lifestyles; strengthen the safety of the food supply chain; and drive intra-and-extra regional trade for the benefit of small, medium and large enterprises and their consumers. Together with our regional, and global, partners we have made real progress across all three areas and we will continue to build on this over the next 12 months.

Following the adoption of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Action Plan on Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) last year, Governments in Asia are implementing measures to deliver against the nine targets. A science-based self-regulatory approach to tackling health and nutrition challenges has shown real and measurable results with the adoption of marketing to children pledges and voluntary front-of-pack labelling schemes shifting the nature and balance of food advertising to children and driving awareness about the nutritional value of food products.

Last year, we worked closely with local industry associations in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines as they launched such voluntary commitments. This year, I look forward to FIA monitoring their impact and working alongside national industry associations to build on these commitments through consumer education and physical activity promotion initiatives.

We will also be working closely with industry associations in other countries to extend self-regulatory commitments across the region and encourage participation from all players – small, medium and large. As part of this, we will be delivering localised evidence to demonstrate the need for a science-based approach in developing solutions to tackle overweight and obesity. Multi-stakeholder collaboration is also essential and the food industry has a critical role to play. The next 12 months will also see us work with national industry associations to encourage more public-private partnerships (PPPs) in tackling health and nutrition challenges in Asia.

Strengthening FIA’s role within the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) is another key priority for the year ahead. The partnership has already made significant progress in building food safety capacity to help strengthen the safety of the food supply chain in an increasingly globalised world. We will be scaling up capacity-building and training in risk assessment, risk management and risk communications – with a particular focus in China.

FIA will also continue to support the ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) in driving the harmonisation of standards across the region. With the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015 deadline fast approaching, there will be heightened focus on driving the agenda on mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) and harmonised nutrition labelling. In particular, FIA will support AFBA in conducting a gap analysis on nutrition labelling and cascading knowledge and training to the region’s national industry association and SMEs.

Employing four million people through 300,000 companies in ASEAN, the food industry has a critical role to play in driving economic growth. The success of ASEAN’s efforts to stimulate the free flow of food products through harmonised food standards, is therefore extremely important for the overall economic development of the region.

FIA: As you embark on your new role, what do you hope to achieve for FIA?
Mr Banati:
I hope to see FIA use innovation to demonstrate effective approaches to tackling health and nutrition challenges, and demonstrate the industry’s role as a trusted partner in encouraging healthier lifestyles.

With the launch of the Industry Guideline on Voluntary Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labelling, I also look forward to see this guideline being considered and voluntarily adopted by food and beverage companies in the region. It promotes the benefits of a harmonised approach to nutrition labelling and I hope governments across Asia will accept it as a reference point in coming up with a framework that can enable consumers to make more informed diet choices. I look forward to seeing AFBA spearhead the achievement of mutual recognition for nutrition labelling and establish a framework for wider harmonisation, based on Codex which I believe will play a significant role in driving overall economic growth in ASEAN.

The expertise of our member companies is very much valued and it has been excellent to see the membership grow over the last four years from six to thirty members. During my time as President, I hope to be able to encourage more leading companies to come aboard to further strengthen the expertise of our committees and working groups, and reinforce FIA’s voice in the food industry in Asia.

FIA: As a founding member, Kellogg’s has played a key role in the formation and development of FIA. What would you say to other food companies thinking of joining FIA?
Mr Banati:
Having been part of FIA since it was first established in 2010, Kellogg’s recognises the importance of working together with other FIA members and industry players to find solutions to address health and nutrition, food safety and trade challenges in Asia. Through such collaboration, we can develop effective solutions for all parties.

Countries across the region are increasingly concerned about overweight and obesity challenge, and ensuring food safety. At the same time, increasingly globalised supply chains and the fast-approaching establishment of the AEC makes it more important to drive the conversation around the harmonisation of food standards. The food industry has a critical role to play responding to, and address, opportunities and challenges within this fast-moving landscape.

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