A special interview with Mr. Erwan Vilfeu, Chairman of ECCK Food Committee and CEO of Nestlé Korea, to discuss about current issues in the food industry and the committee’s agenda in 2018. To read the article, please click on the following link: “국제규정 변화에 빠르고 유연한 대처는 韓 식품산업 발전 도움”
“Rapid and flexible response to changes in international regulations has helped the development of the food industry in Korea”
Special Interview: Erwan Vilfeu, ECCK Food Committee Chairman and CEO of Nestlé Korea
In December of last year, Nestlé Korea CEO was appointed as Chairman of Food Committee of the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea (ECCK).
He has achieved double-digit sales growth every year since he took over as CEO of Nestlé Korea in 2015. In line with the growth of the domestic dessert market, the company focused on marketing KitKat, boosting sales by more than twofold, and put forward Nespresso and Nescafe Dolce Gusto in the rapidly growing capsule coffee market, which shows annual average growth of 20%.
Based on this understanding and network he has in the Korean food industry, which has been successfully led by the company, he decided to take the lead in the Food Committee, which was newly established in ECCK.
I would like to congratulate you on your inauguration as ECCK food committee chairman.
“I am honored to be inaugurated as an important member of the ECCK Food Committee. I am very pleased that ECCK has newly established the food committee. The committee will work for practical cooperation between European companies and authorities and food security for Korean consumers. Food plays a very important role in our lives. It is closely tied to culture and is one of the major economic element throughout the world.
In line with the growing demand of the Korean food industry, committee member companies are experiencing various issues and challenges. The committee will identify key areas for discussion and work closely with government authorities to help provide Korean consumers with more diverse and safer products, while also contributing to the benefits of member companies.”
“According to the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA), imports increased significantly in 2012, after the FTA took effect, and steadily since then. In 2016, imports of processed food increased by 64% in terms of number of imports and 56% in terms of financial value compared to 2010.
I think that as everything is globalized and digitized, consumers want more and more products, which in turn increases their imports.”
The EU Gateway to Korea, launched in 2016, has announced that it will target Korea’s organic food and beverage market for the next five years. In connection with this, does ECCK have a plan for expanding the Korean food and beverage market?
“In February 2015, Korea and the EU signed an agreement to recognize the equivalence of organic processed foods. This means that organic processed foods certified in Korea or the European Union under the laws of their own countries can be labeled as ‘Organic’ in the other country if they meet the conditions of the equivalence recognition agreement.
The agreement is valid for three years and the extension of the agreement is currently being discussed between the two countries, with results to be announced later this month. Through the benefits of this agreement, the European Union is making an effort to introduce various types of organic processed foods to Korea through the EU Gateway to Korea.
ECCK will monitor the regulations and related matters so that the products can be imported and distributed without any problem in the Korean market systematically. Consumer interest in organic food is steadily increasing. We are working to meet this need.”
“Food imports are increasing every year, but there is no communication channel to deliver opinions of food import companies to government agencies. There were cases in which the opinions were not communicated thoroughly even though there were inadequacies of the system since customs issues were dealt by the import customs of each company.
ECCK has set up a food committee at the request of European food companies and will serve as a public voice of the member companies to the authorities. In addition to providing feedback on regulatory issues, we will actively communicate to the authorities if we have any developments in food-related systems in Europe, so that the safety of food is maintained and harmonized with global standards.”
Consumer confidence in quality has largely broken down due to issues related to food safety from Europe last year. What are the plans for restoring Korean consumer confidence?
“I do not think it is appropriate for the ECCK Food Committee to answer this question because there are no meat or meat products importers. But I know that the EU is strengthening regulations on pesticide eggs and processed products of hepatitis E virus contaminated livestock products.”
A survey of food consumption behavior published by the Rural Economic Institute recently showed that Korean consumers’ needs for food are ‘taste’, ‘health’, ‘convenience’ and ‘diversification’. What are the trends in the global food and beverage market, including the EU?
“I think the needs of Korean consumers and global market needs are similar. Korean consumers are open to diverse food cultures and tastes and enjoy discovering exotic foods from around the world. It is even more so in a world where everything is digitized these days.
Health is a very important factor in choosing food. Consumers have a lot of knowledge about the relationship between food and health and are well aware of the impact of good food on mental and physical health. Consumers are very interested in how their products are made, what ingredients are used, what kind of type they are (lacto-free, organic), and how they affect health.
Consumers are also interested in how they are responsibly produced, taking into account the environmental impact of choosing brands and products. Therefore, transparent and honest communication with customers is very important everywhere.”
“As mentioned before, Korean consumer needs are not much different from global needs. Because the world is more digitized and connected more closely. Consumer needs for products that are not available in the Korean market are increasing. Innovation continues to make healthier and tasty food all over the world.
Korea and the EU have made various efforts to ensure that domestic consumers enjoy healthy and safe food, and will continue to cooperate with member companies and authorities to ensure more variety and safety of food products in the future.
There are some tricky and complicated aspects of the licensing process and requirements for new raw materials, but I think it would be helpful to develop the Korean food industry if we respond more flexibly and quickly to changes in international regulations.”