Late in March, the Snack Food Association was the latest industry organization to endorse national snack food guidelines for schools developed by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association.
“The Snack Food Association is delighted to be part of a growing coalition of companies and trade associations that are doing their part to help parents, educators, and health professionals teach kids about healthier lifestyles,” said Jim McCarthy, SFA president and CEO.
“Parents can practice healthy eating and exercise habits with their children at home, but they cannot be present in school to guide the choices their children make,” he continued. “Therefore, we endorse the snack food guidelines created uniquely for schools by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and applaud the Alliance ‘s Healthy Schools Program that helps students learn healthy eating habits and have more access to physical activity.”
The SFA joined Campbell Soup Co., Dannon, Kraft Foods, Mars and PepsiCo, who announced the guidelines with the alliance in October 2006 and for the past five months have been working with the alliance to encourage their broad acceptance in the unique school environment. Some of these companies have already launched new nutritious snack products that are formulated with the specific needs of children and teens in mind that also meet or exceed the alliance guidelines.
In addition, snack food companies Bachman Foods, Reading, Pa; Ubiquity Brands, Chicago; Rudolph Foods Co., Inc., Lima , Ohio; and Shearer’s Foods, Inc., Brewster, Ohio; also have announced their endorsement of the guidelines.
“Our members continue to develop new ways to provide better-for-you snack options without sacrificing taste,” McCarthy said. “We look forward to a strong partnership with the alliance and working with them to implement their guidelines in schools.”
The alliance currently is working with more than 1,100 schools across the country to make a variety of health improvements throughout the school day. It is expected that the number of schools supporting the alliance guidelines will grow at least six-fold within the next year.
Tom Dempsey: On Guard for the SFA
Back in his college days at Colgate University, Tom Dempsey was a guard on the basketball team. But if you search the Web for stories about his on-court exploits, you won’t find much.
“That’s because I was usually the second guy from the end of the bench,” he says. “But it was good enough to get my education paid for.”
Dempsey, who today is executive vice president — sales & marketing for Utz Quality Foods, was installed during SNAXPO as the Snack Food Association’s new chairman for the coming year, succeeding Rich Rudolph, President, Rudolph Foods. Clearly, the same determination that helped Dempsey on the hardwood at Colgate is driving his business career and will be evident as he pursues his priorities at the helm of the SFA.
Dempsey says his objectives are to expand the new online educational program launched by the SFA under Rudolph’s leadership, to continue to protect the industry against unwanted government interference, to publicize the industry’s efforts with healthier snacks and physical activity, and to continue to seek increased coordination and cooperation — even a possible merger — with related trade associations.
“We need to be politically involved and make sure that people understand that we are not the cause of every social and physical malady that comes down the pike,” Dempsey says.
Although he admits to being competitive and a bit emotional, Dempsey says his goal is to lead by example, rather than telling people what to do.
“I want people to say that Tom doesn’t ask us to do anything he wouldn’t do himself,” he asserts. “I want to try to make the SFA more relevant to our members and to do a better job of letting our members know just what we are doing that benefits them.”
He says dramatic changes are sweeping the food industry, including companies that make and sell snacks. “Consolidation on both the manufacturer side as well as the retail side is having a major impact,” he says. “We are seeing the continuing disappearance of small regional snack companies and the continued emergence of multi-state and even multi-national companies.”
Dempsey says he believes that having superior product has been a key to growth at Utz “and has allowed us to expand.” Innovation and meeting the consumer’s changing needs is crucial, he adds.
Even though studies show increased consumer interest in snack products considered “healthier,” Dempsey says it’s important for companies to remember their primary purpose.
“We provide one of the little luxuries that people can afford, and some of that comfort food is going to be necessary,” he says. “The opportunity is still there.”