I recently read that food is the new fashion -- if that's the case, it's a great time to be in the food biz. And if it's true that eating healthy is the new black, I guess we food lawyers are the newest stylists.
Yup, I'm a food lawyer and I'm proud (reader, feel free to mentally insert your favourite lawyer joke here). Canadians are caring more and more about what we put in our bodies; I work with food and beverage companies to make sure it's their products that are being put into those bodies.
There is a lot the food and beverage industries can do to leverage the increased attention on eating well. My personal favourite is the use of regulated claims on labeling (what can I say, I'm a lawyer -- some of us chase ambulances, I chase branding opportunities).
The Food and Drug Regulations allow companies to make certain claims about their products: "organic," "all natural," "high source of fibre," etc.
The inclusion of claims on labels is particularly helpful in the food and beverage spaces where there are lots of the same kinds of products available for consumers to choose from (have you ever counted the cracker options at your local Loblaws?!?). These claims basically allow a company to catch the eye of an interested consumer, like flying a little airplane towing a banner in front of their product that says: "This is good for you! Pick me!"
And if the prediction I read is right, and food is indeed the new fashion, companies can do well making sure their products are sitting on the shelves wearing the very latest trends.
There are also other important aspects of food labelling that can be likened to fashion. Compare the person who can't wear wool to the person who can't eat gluten -- in both cases it's crucial (although arguably more so in the case of gluten) that the potential buyer be made aware. In the case of wool, we turn to the tag; in the case of gluten, we look to the label. (As an aside, gluten-avoiders rejoice: Health Canada's enhanced labelling requirements for gluten sources will come into force on August 4, 2012 -- all gluten protein sources will have to be declared on food labels.)
Labels provide information, and the more a company knows about which label claims are available for it to use on products, the more it can use them to persuade finicky consumers that their product is the right one for them.
There are other things food and beverage companies can do to make their products "go-to" items for the health-conscious consumer: make it the only available product of its kind. One reason we all love Lululemon yoga pants is because they make our butts look so good -- there's something in those yoga pants we just can't find anywhere else.
Like designing a good branding strategy, a food lawyer can help a company (through advocacy before Health Canada) get approval of the newest and best the industry has to offer.
Imagine the Lululemon pant of the food industry: something that's tasty (typical yoga pants) and made with the most innovative ingredients so that it's even better for us than other products on the market (wow -- your butt looks great in those yoga pants!).
The news on the Canadian food industry is that it's growing at an amazing rate. More and more companies are using science to develop new products and to support claims about the health benefits of different ingredients. It's definitely an exciting time to be a part of this industry. I applaud consumers for forcing food and beverage companies to push the envelope on innovation. Let's continue to show industry that healthy eating is indeed in fashion, and like the LBD (little black dress), it's here to stay.