Embracing Change to Respond to Challenges
By James A. McCarthy
President & CEO
Snack Food Association
In our annual report, the leaders of our industry’s associations and educational institutions explore the critical issues that are important to them and how their organizations provide a bounty of benefits for their members. Certainly, many of these benefits can improve your bottom line. Check out what these groups have done over the past year and how they can help you be a better company in the future. Of course, feel free to call them if you can offer a helping hand.
We have all heard the saying, “Change is good.”  It is easier to talk about change, however, than to actually alter the way your business operates because employees, customers and even business owners become complacent with the way things have always been done.
At SFA we are in the midst of engineering significant change. Faced with many critical public policy challenges from proposed acrylamide labeling in California to restrictions on snack sales in schools, the association’s leadership on our Board of Directors determined that we must forcefully respond to the critics of our products and our industry.
There is no doubt that lifestyle changes in our society are resulting in far too many Americans, particularly our youth, spending too much time in passive activities, and not enough time in active pursuits like sports, exercise, or even walking to school or the post office. Unfortunately, all too many of us spend our leisure time in front of the television set or our computers, or playing video games instead of burning calories by being active.
But it is unfair for our industry to be characterized, as some critics have done, as the culprit for increased obesity in America. Diet and good health is a matter of choice, of common sense and of making the right decisions.
SFA intends to strategically respond to the challenges we face with improved public-policy information and communication so we can tell the public who we are as an industry instead of letting others define us, and clearly and effectively show why unfair attacks on our products are unfounded. To achieve this, we have streamlined our staff and our operations and taken other steps to make available the necessary financial resources to strengthen our association’s public-policy program.
For the association and its members to prosper, we must draw a line in the sand and make a commitment to fight unfair attacks on our industry. Certain critics would like the public to believe that snacks are solely responsible for obesity and diseases that are attributed to unhealthy lifestyles. Those critics are wrong and have been allowed to make unsubstantiated claims for too long.
In this regard, the staff reductions at SFA should not be viewed as a lack of commitment to our excellent educational programs.
In fact, SFA has just completed the reintroduction of our Total Quality Management course at Ohio State University in early September. The course featured four days of programming and hands-on demonstrations on quality management for the snack industry and was very well-attended. Additionally, SFA is gearing up for our Management Workshop seminar in Indianapolis, from October 23-25, which offers two exciting tracks for sales and marketing and manufacturing/production. Our Short Course on Snack Production at Texas A&M University will be held before SNAXPO again in March, and SNAXPO 2006 will be the held at the fantastic Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, from March 19-22.
In the months ahead, you will see the Snack Food Association respond to those critics and make headway with thought leaders in public policy. We will educate the public about how snacks can fit into the diets of all Americans. I look forward to working with many of you, our readers, to communicate the snack industry’s story to our ultimate customers.
For more information, visit www.sfa.org or call 1-703-836-4500.